Cam­bo­dia wants U.S. Peace Corps out

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - WORLD -

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. –

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