Cambodia scorns US sanctions against senior military officer
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
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.