A US delegation led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House minority leader, wrapped up two days of meetings in Cambodia on Tuesday, having met with Prime Minister Hun Sen and key rights and democracy workers.
Pelosi and other US representatives met with Hun Sen on Monday to discuss “issues related to the suppression of freedom of expression and association, corruption, and unfair labor practices and land rights,” according to a statement released by the delegation. “The prime minister gave us his view of Cambodia-US relations in past decades.”
The delegation also met with civil society leaders. “They raised concerns about the independence of the judiciary, free and fair elections, proposed restrictions on Internet freedom, and violations of workers’ rights,” the delegation said. “Their presentations were consistent with the recent Human Rights Watch report on garment factories, which we called to the attention of the prime minister.”
Ou Virak, head of the policy think tank Future Forum, who met with Pelosi, said the trip was important because it shines a light on Cambodia’s ongoing human rights abuses. But he said the visit should not make people think Cambodia has international influence or political, economic or military might.
“Cambodia has a consistent violation of human rights that allows the world to criticize us,” he said. But he said he hoped such discussions would continue between Cambodia and the US, particularly without dispute. A good relationship with the US is “good for the Cambodian economy and is good for the reputation of Cambodians, as well as the entire country,” he said.
Cambodia will need to choose whether it wants to move towards closer ties with China, or with the United States, he said.