Will the European Union (EU) cut ties with Cambodia? That question is shaping up to be among the bigger ones being asked ahead of the July 29 national elections.
After severely criticising the government's human rights record, its shuttering of independent news outlets and the court-dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the EU will almost assuredly withdraw from most of the agreements it has made with the Kingdom, or so says the former CNRP president, Sam Rainsy.
In a two-minute video clip posted on Tuesday, Rainsy, who was speaking from the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, after meeting EU leaders, said he was told by those at the meeting that Prime Minister Hun Sen had gone to lengths to damage relations between it and Cambodia.
"At the European Parliament, I just met with the EU's leaders, who told me that Hun Sen's government has broken cooperation agreements, which required Cambodia to follow the democratic path.
"But by dissolving the CNRP and banning it from competing in the elections, Hun Sen has lost the confidence of the EU as the government prepares a fake and a joke of an election," Rainsy claimed.
Despite living in exile to avoid arrest for a host of convictions, Rainsy said it wasn't he who was the criminal.
Hun Sen 'an outlaw'
"Hun Sen killed Cambodia's democracy, so Hun Sen made himself an outlaw, and now his government is considered an outlaw by the EU," Rainsy claimed.
"The EU cannot continue to cooperate with Cambodia like before. The mistake was [that] Hun Sen used authoritarian measures to kill democracy," he said.
Cambodian People's Party spokesman Sok Eysan said he doesn't believe the EU intends to end cooperation with the Kingdom.
He labelled Rainsy's remarks as a lie meant to deceive the people, and noted that, as an international bloc, the EU would have difficulty ending cooperation agreements with Cambodia because not all member states would support such a move.
"Despite his opinion of the EU position . . . and I believe it is his right to express his opinion on the situation in Cambodia, the content of his comments do not fit the actual situation in the Kingdom," Eysan said.
"I understand that [ending any agreement with Cambodia] is the EU's right, but I think it is a bit difficult because some countries in the EU still stand up to support the proper actions [taken by] the Royal Government of Cambodia."
Political analyst Hang Vitou said he had not received any official information about the breaking of relations between Cambodia and the EU, but if such a decision were to be made, there would be serious problems for the Kingdom.
This, he said, included the EU's rejection of the election results and the possibility of post-election economic sanctions.
"If such things really happened, it would have a severe affect" on the Kingdom, Vitou said.
Efforts on Wednesday to reach the EU's Cambodian delegation were in vain.