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Sokha ‘snubs China for US’

Kem Sokha, Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president
Kem Sokha, Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president, speaks at a press conference late last year. Sokha pledged his party’s support for the US during a visit to Washington last week. Heng Chivoan

Sokha ‘snubs China for US’

Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy leader Kem Sokha pledged his party’s foreign policy allegiance to the United States over China in no uncertain terms to top officials in Washington, last week, according to a summary of his meetings posted online.

A document released by the US-based Cambodia National Rescue Foundation over the weekend gives a rundown of Sokha’s meetings with US State Department and Pentagon officials.

CNRP public affairs head Mu Sochua said last night that the document could be regarded as “legitimate”.

In a meeting on April 15 with the general principal director for South and Southeast Asia at the Pentagon, who is not named, Sokha “stressed that Cambodia [had suffered] enough with the communist”, the document says.

“So we don’t want to be ally with the communist like Red China. We want to be a USA ally,” he reportedly said.

In response, the US Department of Defense official said, according to the document: “This is what we want to hear and we will pass the message to our chain of command.”

In January, CNRP leader Sam Rainsy publicly said his party supported China in maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

Though China is engaged in maritime disputes with numerous countries, Rainsy focused on Vietnam, which he accused of land grabbing, according to media reports.

US officials recently have more aggressively opposed China’s actions in the South China Sea and particularly its unilaterally declared air defence identification zone, accusing it of fomenting instability in the region.

Cambodia has long been regarded as one of China’s top regional allies, benefiting from huge loans, grants and investment projects.

According to the document, Sokha also met with Daniel Russell, US assistant secretary of state, on April 16, with Russell saying he was pleased the CNRP had held out on cutting a deal with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to end the political deadlock until serious reforms were promised.

“I am delighted to see that you did not make the deal just for the sake of a deal. All the deals have to benefit Cambodia in [the] long run,” Russell said.

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