US Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt met with the vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, Kem Sokha, on Monday, on a broad range of issues, including recent political tensions.
Heidt, who was sworn in as ambassador in September 2015, also recently met Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials. Hun Sen and a delegation are currently preparing for a meeting with other ASEAN leaders and US President Barack Obama, in Sunnylands, California, next week.
Following the hour-long meeting with Heidt, Kem Sokha told reporters the meeting’s results were good and a “hope for the nation and the Cambodian people.”
Heidt briefly told reporters the meeting focused on US-Cambodian relations and the recent political tensions. “I told him that I am glad to see the two political parties went to the election offices in the provinces like we do in the US,” he said. “I think this is a positive process.”
Rescue Party spokesman Yem Ponharith said later that the ambassador had confirmed the US commitment to building the confidence of the Cambodian people in their government and institutions. The meeting was not about Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy, who remains in exile, facing prison time for criminal defamation charges, he said. Detained activists were also not discussed, he said.
Yem Ponharith meanwhile dismissed rumors that the Rescue Party was behind planned demonstrations in California for Hun Sen’s visit. Those protests are the work of individuals and most protesters are not members of the Rescue Party, he said.
Yem Ponharith said the security situation for Rescue Party lawmakers has somewhat improved since two lawmakers were beaten outside the National Assembly in October. Shortly after the attacks, Kem Sokha was removed from his post as vice president of the National Assembly.