Minister of Interior Sar Kheng met with US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy on June 7 to discuss a wide range of issues including anti-human trafficking, child protection and the implementation of UN resolutions in Cambodia.
The meeting came days after US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R Sherman visited Cambodia and raised these and other issues with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Sar Kheng said Sherman’s visit was remarkable. “This important visit will continue to strengthen and promote cooperation and friendship between our two countries,” he said.
He also thanked the US government for giving its support to the Covid-19 prevention work being done in Cambodia.
Sar Kheng and Murphy both expressed a great deal of appreciation for the cooperative efforts between their two nations on anti-human trafficking enforcement, child protection measures and the implementation of UN resolutions.
“Cambodia has always consistently fulfilled its international obligations in implementing the resolutions on various matters, especially relating to the UN Security Council,” Sar Kheng said.
Murphy informed Sar Kheng that some projects related to environmental work are being launched with the support of the US and that he hoped to see significant progress made in that area.
“In the environmental sector, the Cambodian government must always focus on weighing our development priorities against possible environmental impacts,” Sar Kheng said.
The US Embassy said the discussion between Sar Kheng and Murphy touched on cooperative efforts to keep Cambodia and the US safe, including implementation of UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea and justice for victims of crime.
“Human trafficking affects people in every country on earth, and the United States encourages stronger efforts in Cambodia to prosecute traffickers, protect victims and prevent human trafficking crimes,” the embassy said.
Murphy also expressed serious concerns to Sar Kheng about the prison sentences recently handed down to peaceful environmental activists.
“We urge their release. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Cambodian Constitution. Speaking up to protect Cambodia’s fragile environment – threatened by illegal logging and commercial exploitation – is admirable,” the US embassy said.
In response, Sar Kheng said: “Certain actions have been carried out in the name of protecting the environment with the real intention of causing insecurity and [negatively] affecting public order. And so the authorities had to take action to stop these [crimes].”
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said he supported the request by Murphy for the release of the environmental activists and that they should be encouraged to continue their work.
He said the environmental activists were helping the government in protecting natural resources and forests and that they had just exercised their right to express their views as established by the international treaties and conventions that Cambodia had ratified and that were contained in the constitution.
Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun said it was good for Cambodia and the US to meet and discuss these issues even when they disagree.
“I believe that when there is dialogue, discussion and seeking to understand each other, more or less, it can bear fruit in restoring and strengthening relations between the US and Cambodia to another level.
“The issues that the US raised regarding human rights and democracy can also be solved,” he said.