Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia’s ties with US frayed, says official

Cambodia’s ties with US frayed, says official

Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Ouch Borith speaks at a celebration marking the anniversary of the Cambodian Constitution yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Ouch Borith speaks at a celebration marking the anniversary of the Cambodian Constitution yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Cambodia’s ties with US frayed, says official

In a speech to 65 senior government officials yesterday, Cambodia’s acting foreign affairs minister said this month had been “the worst” so far in the history of Cambodia-US relations.

“Our relationship seems to be difficult,” said Ouch Borith, who is second-in-command at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Citing the widely condemned arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha – over accusations of a purported US-backed plot to foment revolution – as well as the closure of US-backed and -owned independent media outlets and the dispute over deportations of Cambodian citizens living in the US, Borith said this month had been a “hot” one for the two countries.

“We are concerned about only one thing – that there is a push in the US Congress to impose economic sanctions,” Borith said. “That is a huge market . . . If the US goes, the US will take the EU with it as well.”

Borith echoed Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top officials in criticising the US for deporting Cambodian residents who were convicted of felonies despite many of them having lived in the US as refugees since they were children.

“[The deportees] were sentenced and did their time for five or six years already, and now they are sent to Cambodia,” Borith said. “It seems like that they are being punished twice. Some do not speak Khmer, our officials have interviewed them. And once we asked them, they are Vietnamese, Thais and sometimes Laotians,” he said.

Speaking at a celebration of the 24th anniversary of the Cambodian Constitution, Borith said the ministry was working to promote the garment industry to consumers outside of the US in case the administration of President Donald Trump imposed economic sanctions.

“Not having visas is not a problem – it won’t kill us,” he said, referring to a recent visa ban imposed by the US on certain Foreign Affairs officials in response to the Kingdom’s suspension in accepting the deportees.

Borith also defended the government’s actions in shuttering the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the American-owned newspaper the Cambodia Daily, both of which he said had “violated the law”.

He said the NDI in particular had failed to register on time with the ministry under a 2015 law governing NGOs – a claim that the US Embassy in Phnom Penh has refuted.

The US Embassy declined to comment yesterday, referring reporters instead to a statement delivered by US Ambassador William Heidt earlier this month in which he noted that the events of the past month “aren’t hurting the United States, they are hurting Cambodia”.

MOST VIEWED

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to