US en­voy to Cam­bo­dia de­nies plot­ting to oust gov­ern­ment

The Myanmar Times - - Asean Focus -

THE U.S. am­bas­sador to Cam­bo­dia on Tues­day de­nied al­le­ga­tions by Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen that Wash­ing­ton is seek­ing to oust his gov­ern­ment, and warned that Cam­bo­dia is do­ing it­self dam­age in­ter­na­tion­ally with its anti-Amer­ica cam­paign.

Hun Sen and his rul­ing Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party have in the past month ac­cel­er­ated the use of le­gal and ad­min­is­tra­tive mea­sures to un­der­mine crit­ics and po­lit­i­cal foes, cul­mi­nat­ing in the Sept. 3 ar­rest of op­po­si­tion leader Kem Sokha on a trea­son charge.

The charge was based on videos from sev­eral years ago that showed him at a sem­i­nar where he spoke about re­ceiv­ing ad­vice from U.S. pro-democ­racy groups. He faces up to 30 years in prison if con­victed.

Am­bas­sador Wil­liam Heidt said the ac­cu­sa­tions were false, and called for Kem Sokha’s re­lease.

An English-lan­guage news­pa­per, The Cam­bo­dia Daily, was shut down last week by Cam­bo­dian au­thor­i­ties, and more than a dozen ra­dio sta­tions that broad­cast dis­si­dent voices or used pro­gram­ing from U.S. gov­ern­ment-funded Voice of Amer­ica and Ra­dio Free Asia were forced to stop broad­cast­ing for al­leged breach of reg­u­la­tions.

The lo­cal of­fice of the Na­tional Demo­cratic In­sti­tute, a U.S.-based democ­racy pro­mo­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion, was or­dered closed and its for­eign em­ploy­ees told to leave the coun­try.

The ac­tions, along with Kem Sokha’s ar­rest, are widely seen as a par­ti­san gov­ern­ment ef­fort to hin­der the op­po­si­tion be­fore next year’s gen­eral elec­tion.

Hun Sen has sug­gested that the United States con­spired with Kem Sokha to try to over­throw his gov­ern­ment. He said he wanted to keep his­tory from re­peat­ing it­self, re­fer­ring to Cam­bo­dia’s 1970 mil­i­tary coup – pur­port­edly backed by Wash­ing­ton – that plunged the coun­try into civil war and even­tu­ally four years of bru­tal rule by the Kh­mer Rouge.

The theme that the United States has been try­ing to un­der­mine the gov­ern­ment, pro­mot­ing a “rev­o­lu­tion” that would again plunge Cam­bo­dia into chaos, has been echoed by pro-gov­ern­ment me­dia.

Heidt, speak­ing to jour­nal­ists, said “the United States has been sub­ject to in­ten­tion­ally in­ac­cu­rate, mis­lead­ing and base­less ac­cu­sa­tions.”

He said the al­le­ga­tions were hurt­ing Cam­bo­dia, not the United States.

“They are, step-by-step, iso­lat­ing Cam­bo­dia from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity at the very mo­ment Cam­bo­dia needs in­ter­na­tional sup­port to raise its econ­omy to the next level and com­pete with its neigh­bours,” he said.

Heidt said he be­lieves “there is still time to sal­vage Cam­bo­dia’s 2018 elec­tions, con­tinue Cam­bo­dia’s demo­cratic de­vel­op­ment, and re­store our bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.”

Ra­dio Free Asia, which like The Cam­bo­dia Daily and Voice of Amer­ica was ac­cused by the au­thor­i­ties of be­ing delin­quent in pay­ing taxes, an­nounced Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton that it was clos­ing its op­er­a­tions in­side Cam­bo­dia, though it would con­tinue broad­cast­ing and re­port­ing from out­side the coun­try.

“The gov­ern­ment’s re­lent­less crack­down on in­de­pen­dent voices in re­cent weeks has made it im­pos­si­ble to keep the bureau open while guar­an­tee­ing the in­tegrity of RFA’s jour­nal­is­tic mis­sion,” the broad­caster’s pres­i­dent, Libby Liu, said in a state­ment. “It has be­come in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent that Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sun has no in­ten­tion of al­low­ing free me­dia to con­tinue op­er­at­ing in­side the coun­try ahead of the 2018 elec­tions.” – As­so­ci­ated Press

Photo: AP

U.S. Am­bas­sador to Cam­bo­dia Wil­liam Heidt gives a news con­fer­ence at the U.S. Em­bassy in Phnom Penh, Cam­bo­dia, on Tues­day.

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