PHNOM PENH —
Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the United States to cancel hundreds of million of dollars of debt incurred in the early 1970s.
The premier also blamed the U.S. administration of the day for plotting to oust King Norodom Sihanouk from power and install a U.S.-friendly regime in Phnom Penh in 1970.
“The Pol Pot regime did not happen by itself. If the US did not oust King Sihanouk, for sure there would be no war in Cambodia and Pol Pot would not have had a chance to take power,” he said, referring to the rise of the totalitarian Khmer Rouge regime.
He went on to question whether the U.S. leaders who sanctioned the coup that brought the Khmer Republic to power should face charges at the International Criminal Court and called for compensation for its bombing campaign during the war in Indochina.
“It is hard for us to explain to the Cambodian people they should recognize debts which were used to buy bombs and bullets to kill Cambodian people,” he said.
Cambodia has requested the roughly $300 million debt be canceled on numerous occasions over the past decades.
David Josar, U.S. Embassy spokesman, declined to comment on Sunday.
King Sihanouk was ousted in a coup on March 18, 1970, by General Lon Nol. Sihanouk later lent his support to an armed resistance movement which grew in an ear that marked the beginning of a protracted civil war leading up to the seizure of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge in April 1975.
Ou Virak, founder of the Future Forum think tank, said he supported the cancellation of war debts, including money owed to both the United States and Russia.
“They cannot continue to ask for these debts [to be paid] by the younger generation. Our leaders in the past should also be responsible for this,” he said.