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Vaguely, Ministry Lambastes Embassies

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an unexplained letter to embassies on Tuesday, reminding them not to interfere in the internal affairs of state.

The note was a sharp reprimand in diplomatic terms, but it was not addressed to any specific mission. It was issued to embassies throughout Phnom Penh.

“There have been many occasions, in which some heads of diplomatic missions behaved like a ‘Proconsul’ of his/her country to the Kingdom of Cambodia,” the ministry said in its note, without naming a specific country.

“They indulged themselves to criticize or to give lessons to the Royal Government of Cambodia. Such behaviors are not acceptable for Cambodia as a sovereign country and a member of the United Nations,” the note said, adding, “Cambodia is not a ‘BANANA REPUBLIC.’”

The ministry said diplomatic protocols called for envoys to avoid interfering in the affairs of a host country, “regardless of the power of his or her home country.”

Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said some diplomats had previously exceeded the limit of their mandate, but he declined to give an example.

Cambodia relies heavily on aid from donor countries, who contribute about half of its national budget each year.

Officials at the French, US and Vietnamese embassies declined to comment Wednesday. Other embassy officials could not be reached for comment.

Opposition lawmakers and rights workers on Wednesday said they had been unable to ascertain the meaning of the note.

However, Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay said the note could have something to do with a potential probe by the US Securities and Exchange Commission into allegations of corruption between Australian mining giant BHP Billiton and the government.

Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licadho, said Cambodia needs the advice of foreign countries.

“The government should accept the recommendations of those countries to make Cambodia a country of the rule of law, respect for human rights and the application of democratic rule,” she said