Cam­bo­dia scorns US sanc­tions against se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cer

The Myanmar Times - - Asean Focus -

THE US Trea­sury Depart­ment has hit the head of Cam­bo­dian Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen’s body­guard unit with sanc­tions for his al­leged role in “se­ri­ous acts of hu­man rights abuse,” prompt­ing the Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ment on Wed­nes­day to con­demn the US move as base­less “in­ter­fer­ence.”

In a state­ment on Tues­day, the depart­ment’s Of­fice of For­eign As­sets Con­trol per­son­ally linked Gen. Hing Bun Hieng, whose unit falls un­der the Royal Cam­bo­dian Armed Forces, “to in­ci­dents where mil­i­tary force was used to me­nace gath­er­ings of pro­test­ers and the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion go­ing back at least to 1997.”

As an ex­am­ple, it cited a brazen at­tack on two op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers out­side the Na­tional Assem­bly in Oc­to­ber 2015, in which they were dragged from sav­agely beaten.

Three of the unit’s mem­bers were sent to jail af­ter they con­fessed to par­tic­i­pat­ing in that at­tack. The court sen­tenced each of them to four years in prison but later re­duced those sen­tences to one year, and they were pro­moted in the unit upon their re­lease.

The US state­ment also cited a Septem­ber 2013 mob at­tack on ac­tivists at Wat Ph­nom, a Bud­dhist tem­ple in the cap­i­tal Ph­nom Penh.

The ac­tivists were hold­ing a peace­ful vigil when they were sud­denly set upon by dozens of masked men wield­ing sticks, elec­tric ba­tons and sling­shots. A truck loaded with some at­tack­ers was re­port­edly seen en­ter­ing a nearby district gov­ern­ment com­pound after­ward. their ve­hi­cles and

As a re­sult of the US ac­tion, any prop­erty, or in­ter­est in prop­erty, of Bun Hieng within US ju­ris­dic­tion is blocked, while US cit­i­zens are pro­hib­ited from en­gag­ing in trans­ac­tions with him and en­ti­ties 50 per­cent or more owned by him.

Hun Sen’s Cabi­net re­acted by say­ing it “con­demns” the US move that was based on “ground­less” al­le­ga­tions.

“What the United States is do­ing is an in­ter­fer­ence into Cam­bo­dia’s sovereignty and in­de­pen­dence beyond US ju­ris­dic­tion,” it said in a state­ment.

To the con­trary, it said, Bun Hieng has been do­ing a com­mend­able job “in en­forc­ing law and ex­er­cis­ing his du­ties to protect Cam­bo­dia’s sta­bil­ity and so­cial order so as to se­cure the progress as seen to­day.”

“We should ques­tion the US bomb­ings of Cam­bo­dian in the 1970s that killed mil­lions of Cam­bo­dian peo­ple. Wasn’t that a hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion?” it said.

The lat­est move comes af­ter the US gov­ern­ment an­nounced last De­cem­ber it would “re­strict en­try into the United States of those in­di­vid­u­als in­volved in un­der­min­ing democ­racy in Cam­bo­dia” in re­sponse to the Hun Sen gov­ern­ment’s “se­ries of anti-demo­cratic ac­tions.”

It cited the court-or­dered dis­so­lu­tion of the op­po­si­tion Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party, the ban­ning of its lead­ers from elec­toral pol­i­tics, the im­pris­on­ment of CNRP leader Kem Sokha, re­stric­tions on civil so­ci­ety and sup­pres­sion of in­de­pen­dent media.

In view of those de­vel­op­ments, the United States and the Euro­pean Union have both sus­pended fund­ing for the gen­eral elec­tion to be held July 29, ar­gu­ing that an elec­toral process from which the main op­po­si­tion party has been ar­bi­trar­ily ex­cluded can­not be seen as le­git­i­mate. – Ky­odo

Photo: AP

Gen. Hing Bun Hieng, com­man­der of Cam­bo­dia’s Prime Min­is­ter Body­guard Unit, sec­ond from left, with Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen, fore­ground right, at the in­ter­na­tional air­port in Ph­nom Penh in 2014.

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