Cam­bo­dian PM calls on US to with­draw Peace Corps

The Jakarta Post - - SPORTS - Prak Chan Thul

Cam­bo­dian Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen called on the United States on Fri­day to with­draw Peace Corps vol­un­teers in an es­ca­lat­ing row over ac­cu­sa­tions that US agents con­spired with an op­po­si­tion leader to plot trea­son.

This comes a day af­ter Hun Sen sus­pended co­op­er­a­tion with the US to find the re­mains of Amer­i­cans killed in the Viet­nam War.

Hun Sen’s Peace Corps di­rec­tive was a re­sponse to the US Em­bassy in Ph­nom Penh is­su­ing a travel warn­ing that urged cit­i­zens to show cau­tion amid “an­tiAmer­i­can rhetoric by of­fi­cials.”

“Are you [US] scar­ing Cam­bo­di­ans?” Hun Sen said in an ad­dress to gar­ment work­ers at fac­to­ries that ex­port much of their pro­duc­tion to North Amer­ica. “Are you pre­pared to in­vade Cam­bo­dia and that’s why you told Amer­i­cans to be care­ful? It’s good if you pull out the Peace Corps.”

The US Em­bassy, which on Fri­day swore in 71 new Peace Corps vol­un­teers, de­clined to com­ment. It has pre­vi­ously dis­missed the ac­cu­sa­tions of col­lu­sion with op­po­si­tion leader Kem Sokha. Hun Sen said on Fri­day that he had or­dered an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether any Amer­i­cans were in­volved with Kem Sokha.

Op­po­nents of Hun Sen ac­cuse him of ar­rest­ing Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha and crack­ing down on in­de­pen­dent me­dia and other crit­ics ahead of a gen­eral elec­tion next year. The ev­i­dence against Kem Sokha was a video recorded in 2013 in which he dis­cusses a strat­egy to win power with the help of un­spec­i­fied Amer­i­cans.

Hun Sen, a close ally of China, has taken a se­ries of mea­sures against US in­ter­ests this year from end­ing joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises to ex­pelling a naval aid unit to forc­ing a US-funded pro-democ­racy group to leave.

Ac­cord­ing to the US Em­bassy, more than 500 Peace Corps vol­un­teers have worked in Cam­bo­dia since 2006, pro­vid­ing English teach­ing, teacher train­ing and com­mu­nity health ed­u­ca­tion.

Mean­while, Hun Sen said on Thurs­day he was sus­pend­ing co­op­er­a­tion with the US to find the re­mains of Amer­i­cans killed in the Viet­nam War.

“The search co­op­er­a­tion is post­poned un­til a num­ber of is­sues are re­solved be­tween Cam­bo­dia and the United States,” he said, adding that a to­tal of 80 Amer­i­can sol­diers had gone miss­ing in Cam­bo­dia dur­ing the war in neigh­bor­ing Viet­nam and that half of them had been found.

The Viet­nam War that ended in 1975 re­mains an emo­tive is­sue in Cam­bo­dia.

Hun Sen says the US has never apol­o­gized for its role in bomb­ing his coun­try to try to kill Viet­namese com­mu­nist guer­ril­las and should for­give debts built up by a pro-US junta that ruled un­til it was ousted by the geno­ci­dal Kh­mer Rouge.

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