Foreign Ministry hits out at US visa restrictions on Cambodian officials

US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert speaks in the press briefing room at the Department of State in Washington, DC.
US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert speaks in the press briefing room at the Department of State in Washington, DC. Alex Wroblewski/AFP

Foreign Ministry hits out at US visa restrictions on Cambodian officials

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday condemned the US State Department’s announcement that visa restrictions will be imposed on Cambodian officials involved in “undermining democracy”.

In a statement issued a day after the decision was announced, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “utterly dismayed” by the additional visa restrictions. “Cambodia noted with deep regret that the latest decision made by the US Department of State did not take into consideration Cambodia’s recent political development from legal and factual dimensions, and that the move was politically motivated with prejudice and double standards,” the statement reads.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert cited the dissolution of the CNRP and the imprisonment of its leader, Kem Sokha, as well as restrictions on civil society and independent media, as reasons for the visa restrictions. But the Foreign Affairs Ministry dismissed the allegations on Friday.

“[The] legal measures against a handful of law-breaking individuals, NGOs and media outlets should not be construed as an attempt to undermine Cambodia’s democratic space,” the statement reads.

The US Embassy declined to comment yesterday.

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy yesterday said the visa restrictions had “hit the target”.

“Hun Sen, who has never cared about Cambodia’s interests and the sufferings of the Cambodian people, is now starting to pay attention to US sanctions only because they hurt the personal interests of individuals associated with his regime,” he wrote.

In a Facebook post, meanwhile, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan accused Rainsy of planning to “organise a civil war in Cambodia”, and using “Khmer blood to be the red carpet to stage his own power”.

Rainsy could not be reached for a response, but the opposition has long denied ruling party claims it fomented unrest.

Additional reporting by Ben Sokhean

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