PHNOM PENH —
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday threatened to retaliate against the United States after Washington imposed visa restrictions on senior Cambodian officials for “undermining democracy”.
The Trump administration announced in early December it was imposing travel restrictions on dozens of Cambodian officials after Hun Sen’s government dissolved the country’s main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The U.S. State Department has called on Cambodia to reinstate the party and release its leader, Kem Sokha, who is being held on treason charges for his alleged role in a supposed plot to topple Hun Sen.
“Please restrict the visas... But don’t forget that they [U.S. officials] also need to enter our country and we will restrict back. It is not wrong,” he said.
He added a warning to the United States and the European Union not to interfere in Cambodia’s internal relations. “If we depend on foreigners, Khmers are truly just dogs that walk and follow them and wait for bones,” he said.
The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment.
Cambodia accused the United States of being behind the alleged plot to overthrow Hun Sen in a “color revolution”, a claim denied by the CNRP and U.S.
In September, Hun Sen announced he was suspending a program to recover the remains of U.S. service personnel missing since the Vietnam War in response to visa restrictions imposed by Washington.
Some 118 CNRP politicians were banned from politics for five years as part of the court ruling that dissolved the party.
The European Union and the United States have both cut election funding to Cambodia in the wake of the CNRP’s dissolution. However, Hun Sen has said that foreign backing for the election is not necessary for it to be seen as legitimate in the eyes of voters.
The increasing tensions with the West come as Cambodia is drawing increasingly close to Beijing, which is offering political and economic support to Hun Sen.