Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday used the Asean summit in the Philippines to call on U.S. President Donald Trump to “admonish” U.S. Embassy officials in Phnom Penh for alleged interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs.
Hun Sen said in a speech that past U.S. administrations had used human rights and democracy to “interfere” in other countries’ internal affairs and urged the Trump administration to do otherwise.
“Your policy line is being revised, but the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh has not changed. We enforce the law; they attempt to prevent our legal enforcement. We enforce laws in our country and they obstruct us,” he said.
“At this point, I think that maybe you have the duty to admonish the officials because this is a great principle of non-interference in the internal affair of the people.”
Hun Sen’s speech followed a statement by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz last week that criticized Cambodia’s government over the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha and attempts to dissolve his Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Hun Sen and other senior officials have defended the arrest and a lawsuit filed against the opposition as legitimate moves based on alleged evidence of treason.
Sebastian Strangio, author of “Hun Sen’s Cambodia”, said Hun Sen’s speech was an attempt to form an understanding with the Trump administration.
“I think his intention is sort of to appeal and try to go over the head of the State Department and US Congress try to establish a good relationship with the president in the hope that he would be able to rebuild Cambodia-American ties on a basis that is much more supportive,” he said.