Cambodia wants U.S. Peace Corps out
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s leader has escalated his feud with the United States, calling Friday for U.S. Peace Corps volunteers doing development work to be withdrawn.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s demand was part of an anti-American tirade in a speech to garment workers on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh.
It came a day after he told a progovernment newspaper that he will order the withdrawal of U.S. military-led teams that search for the remains of Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War. The U.S. government lists 48 Americans still unaccounted for in Cambodia.
The Peace Corps began operating in Cambodia in 2006, mainly providing English-language teaching and health care training. About 500 have done tours since then.
“Better you withdrew your Peace Corps volunteers from Cambodia,” Hun Sen said in his speech.
Washington’s relations with Hun Sen, an autocrat who has held power for three decades, have never been warm. They took a sharp turn for the worse when the head of the main opposition group, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was recently arrested and charged with treason and the United States accused of colluding with him to overthrow the government.
Hun Sen stepped up his antiAmerican remarks this week after the U.S. announced it was suspending issuing visas to senior Cambodian Foreign Ministry officials and their families.
The U.S. said the visa suspension, instituted Wednesday, was because Cambodia had refused or delayed accepting Cambodian nationals being deported by the United States after being convicted of crimes.
Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry said it just seeks to modify a 2002 agreement on the matter.
Hun Sen also appeared to be angered that the U.S. Embassy Thursday issued a security message for U.S. citizens, saying the recent political events may raise overall tensions, even though there are no specific threats.
He declared in his Friday speech said there was no threat from Daesh (ISIS) and wondered why the advisory was issued.
“Do you plan to attack Cambodia with missiles? Is that why you have called for American nationals to take good care?” he asked.
“Are you seeking to scare the Cambodian people?”
He warned U.S. Ambassador William Heidt not to act as if he was Cambodia’s parent.
He also recalled Washington’s playing a part in Cambodia’s tragic history, which saw the communist Khmer Rouge seizing power in the late 1970s and implementing brutal policies that left an estimated 1.7 million dead during their four years in power.
The prime minister also recalled that Cambodia was heavily bombed by the United States during the Vietnam War.
“The experience of suffering in the past because of invasion by the American imperialists we have not yet forgotten. A lot of bombs and unexploded ordnance were left in our ground,” Hun Sen said. –