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Cambodian Reaction Muted on Allegations of US Spying

The flag of the United States of America flies at the United States Embassy building in Phnom Penh, file photo.
The flag of the United States of America flies at the United States Embassy building in Phnom Penh, file photo.
WASHINGTON DC - Cambodian authorities say they have not prepared a strong reaction to allegations that US spy agencies eavesdropped on regional leaders.

Defense Minister Tea Banh told VOA Khmer that any evidence regarding US spying would be hard to come by, making any kind of official response unlikely. “This is almost impossible,” he said.

Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine has reported on US spying throughout Asia, involving the interception of radio, telecommunications and Internet traffic, via diplomatic missions of the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australian embassies throughout Southeast Asia were used for eavesdropping.

Those reports and others have sparked an outcry from China, Malaysia and Indonesian, who have called for an explanation. In Cambodia, however, the reaction was muted.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng said he did not have any “concrete information” the West had spied on Cambodia, but he said he would demand an explanation from US officials if such information becomes available.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia has “no intention of being hostile to US interests.”

“What we’ve learned and experienced is nothing strange to Cambodia, because we’ve learned it from Wikileak documents, and we understand that US has to protect its interest,” he said.

The spying allegations in Southeast Asia are one of a string of reports on US surveillance efforts abroad, which reportedly including major heads of state, creating a diplomatic crisis for the United States.

US officials say a review of its intelligence-gathering methods is under way.

“That will be completed by the end of the year,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. “As part of that effort, we’re looking at the program and we’re looking at making sure that it’s meeting our foreign policy needs.”

Sar Kheng said he found the US actions confounding.

“I’m saying this on my own behalf, not for my government,” he said. “The US is normally a promoter of democracy, freedom and human rights, but why would they do this? I don’t know what they want.”