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China Announces Support for Cambodia’s Crackdown

Chinese President Xi Jinping, front row third right, waves with leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum as they pose for a group photo at the Yanqi Lake venue on the outskirt of Beijing, China, Monday, May 15, 2017. They are, front row from left, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Xi, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and second row from third left to right, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, Pool)

The United States, European Union, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom have all condemned the crackdown in Cambodia ahead of next year’s elections.

As Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon called on embassies this week not to interfere with Cambodia’s internal affairs over the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha, China announced its support for Cambodia’s crackdown on the opposition.

Following a meeting between Wang Jiarui, vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body to Beijing, and National Assembly President Heng Samrin on Thursday, San Sarana, a spokesman for Samrin, told reporters that Wang had praised Prime Minister Hun Sen for the arrest.

“China wanted to offer its support to Samdech Hun Sen for arresting Kem Sokha, as Cambodia’s internal security will be guaranteed,” he said.

The meeting between Wang and Samrin came a day after Cambodia warned western diplomatic missions against making public statements opposing the charges against Sokha, who was arrested in a pre-dawn raid on Sunday and later charged with espionage in a case widely seen as politically motivated.

The charges stem from a public speech Sokha gave in Australia several years ago in which he claimed to have received advice on grassroots campaigning to defeat the Hun Sen regime at the ballot box from the United States and Canada.

“Kem Sokha confessed clearly in the video that the United States has told him what to do from the beginning. He talked about his links with the U.S. since 1993. He stepped down from politics when they told him to do so. He took the model from Yugoslavia when the U.S. told him to do so. That explained all the strikes, violence, demonstrations… in 2013 and 2014,” Prak Sokhon said in the letter.

A series of strikes and mass demonstrations marked the period following Cambodia’s 2013 election, which the ruling Cambodian People’s Party won amid credible allegations of widespread voter fraud and intimidation. The protests and strikes were crushed by paratroopers, military police, and regime thugs in January 2014, leaving at least five dead and dozens seriously injured.

The United States, European Union, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom have all condemned the crackdown in Cambodia ahead of next year’s elections, which has also included the forced closure of more than a dozen radio stations broadcasting critical coverage of the regime, the expulsion of the U.S.-funded election monitoring group the National Democratic Institute, and the closure of the Cambodia Daily newspaper.

San Sarana on Thursday confirmed what many analysts have been predicting for some time: Cambodia’s increasing dependence on China.

“China will cooperate and assist Cambodia in all scenarios. China will be behind us to support Cambodia when the country faces any obstacles. Cambodia’s success is China’s success, and any obstacles that happen to Cambodia also happen to China,” he said.