As Cambodian democracy weakens, US sanctions official
connection to a 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally that killed 16 people and wounded more than 100.
The attack, still unsolved and unpunished, injured an American democracy activist, Roy Abney. The Treasury Department statement refers to him as a “US citizen” who suffered shrapnel wounds. The US government has so far “been reluctant to make this allegation public,” said Sebastian Strangio, a journalist who has written a book on Hun Sen. “That it is doing so now speaks to how far relations between Phnom Penh and Washington have frayed.”
But the choice of Bun Hieng is something like a warning shot, Strangio said. While Bun Hieng “occupies an important and symbolic part of Hun Sen’s personal security architecture and is alleged to have had a hand in a long list of human rights abuses,” Strangio said, he is a marginal economic and political figure whose blacklisting is unlikely to cause a rupture between Washington and Phnom Penh.
Nevertheless, Cambodia’s government was quick to criticise the sanctions. The Cambodian Defence Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday saying the US action was a “stupid decision that Cambodia cannot accept,” according to the Associated Press.
Hun Sen’s government is likely to cite the sanctions as further evidence of US bias against his government. The United States has become somewhat of a bogeyman, analysts say, as Hun Sen stokes antiAmerican sentiment in Cambodia ahead of elections there on July 29.
– The Washington Post