PHNOM PENH - A dozen US lawmakers, including Republican Senator John McCain, have written President Barack Obama, urging him to use an upcoming visit to Cambodia to push for improvement of the country’s sliding human rights efforts and crackdowns on constitutional freedoms.
The members of Congress cited the killing of environmentalist Chut Wutty in April, the shooting death of a 14-year-old girl in May, the arrest of an independent radio owner and the continued exile of opposition leader Sam Rainsy as evidence that Cambodia’s government under Prime Minister Hun Sen deserves censure.
“Cambodia is becoming a more dangerous place for t hose who speak out about these problems,” the lawmakers wrote. “By taking a strong and public stand in support of human rights and democracy during this first-time visit by a US president to Cambodia, your words would encourage and embolden the Cambodian people and send a clear message to the entire region about American values and expectations, particularly in the wake of the Arab Spring.”
A government spokesman dismissed the letter, saying it did not reflect the true situation in Cambodia.
But the country has faced increased pressure from the international community for its degraded freedoms and rights, for politicized courts, and for ongoing land grabs in both rural and urban areas that have left many impoverished Cambodians without land or homes.