PHNOM PENH —
Cambodia’s foreign ministry is not concerned by visa restrictions imposed on senior officials by the Trump administration, an official has said.
But economic sanctions, including any moves by Washington that could restrict garment imports from Cambodia, were worrying, said Ouch Borith, who is acting foreign minister while Prak Sokhon is in the United States for the 72nd U.N. General Assembly Session.
Giving a speech to high-ranking officials on Wednesday, Borith spoke of the rising tensions between Washington and Phnom Penh following the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha and the closure of U.S.-linked media outlets and a democracy promotion NGO.
“It’s fine to not allow officials to go to the U.S.,” he said. “The only concern is the imposition of economic sanctions on Cambodia. The sanctions will definitely affect the export quotas to the U.S. We are only concerned about sanctions, not visa restrictions.”
“The government is finding new markets to replace the U.S. and E.U. in the event that the U.S. Government led by Mr. Donald Trump imposes economic sanctions on Cambodia,” he said.
On September 13, Washington announced it was suspending visas for senior foreign ministry officials and their families in what was thought to be a response to Cambodia saying it would not accept deportees.
In response to the sanction, Cambodia said it would suspend a long-running program to recover the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in America’s war in Indochina.
Cambodia has stepped up anti-U.S. rhetoric following the arrest of Sokha, with experts warning that tensions will get worse before they get better.
Meas Ny, a social and political analyst, said that Cambodia would be unlikely to find replacement markets for its exports in the event of sanctions.
“The Cambodian government should reconsider its foreign relationships,” he said.
Cambodia’s garment industry is a key industry, employing more than 700,000 people and bringing in billions of dollars each year, with the largest foreign markets being the United States and the European Union, which gives Cambodia preferential trade tariffs.