The US State Department issued a message to the Cambodian government Monday, congratulating it on the successful completion of the first trial of Khmer Rouge leaders, as the country heads toward New Year celebrations.
“Over the last year, the partnership between our two nations has grown stronger and deeper,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in the statement.
“Together we have expanded cooperation on law enforcement issues, food security, the environment, and international peacekeeping,” she said. “I congratulate the people of the Kingdom of Cambodia on the occasion of Khmer New Year.”
She also congratulated Cambodia on a “historical milestone,” the completion of a trial for Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, in 2009. Duch was tried under a hybrid UN-Cambodia court whose inception was supported by the US.
Cambodia and the US will mark 60 years of diplomatic relations in July. Those relations have seen a gradual improvement in the past few years, with the resumption of direct aid, including military aid, in 2006, and the establishment of a legal attaché in the US Embassy in Phnom Penh in 2007.
Relations were strained, however, in December 2009, when Cambodia deported 20 Uighur asylum seekers, in what rights workers fear will mean their persecution in China. The US canceled the delivery of 200 military trucks earlier this year as a result.
Meanwhile, Cambodia still would like the US to forgive about $300 million in debts from the 1970s, though the US has so far not agreed to the prospect.
A spokesman for Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Tuesday the minister was happy Clinton “recognized the progress and reality in Cambodia.”