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Review of US training ‘in order’

Less than two months after a major rights group lambasted the US for providing training to Cambodia’s “abusive armed forces”, a former assistant secretary of state has called for a congressional review.

The call came at a Wednesday hearing led by the Republican party chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, on the “troubling” state of human rights in Southeast Asia.

Lorne Craner, the former US State Department official, said the training “for Hun Sen’s security forces during the recent Angkor Sentinel exercises . . . appear to be inconsistent with Congressional restrictions on the types of training that may be offered by the US to Cambodia”.

“Because Cambodia’s security forces are integral to the regime’s repressive tactics, a Congressional review . . . is in order.”

In May, Human Rights Watch hit out at the US for providing “training that would assist Cambodia’s military in government crackdowns on the political opposition and civil society activists”, which it said may be in violation of US law.

The Post found that photos singled out by HRW were removed from the official Facebook page of the joint exercise less than two weeks later.

During the hearing, Royce referred to the count in 2013’s disputed national election as “truly preposterous”. The committee’s top-ranking Democrat, Eliot Engel, also criticised the government for tightening its “chokehold” on the media.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed many of the claims. “Those lawmakers don’t understand Cambodia. They are a great country, they are intelligent. They need to review this, because I don’t want them to be wrong.”

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