The European Union’s human rights legacy is tainted by its inaction in Cambodia.

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — In 2006, the Cambodian sugar industry was so negligible as to be non-existent. A decade on, it has grown into a multi-million dollar commercial enterprise — largely thanks to a European policy known as “Everything But Arms” (EBA), which provides tariff-free access to the common market for exporters from the world’s least-developed nations.

As a result of ruthless shortcuts taken by the Cambodian sugar industry’s biggest players, at least 12,000 people have been affected by human rights abuses and environmental damage, many of whom have been forced to leave their homes, and children as young as 12 are harnessed to harvest cane; part of an abusive system that rights groups say badly tarnishes the EU’s human rights records and points to serious flaws in its trade policies.

 

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