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US lawmakers meet with foreign minister

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn (left) greets US Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen.
Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn (left) greets US Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. Heng Chivoan

US lawmakers meet with foreign minister

Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn met with two US congressmen yesterday, discussing ongoing disagreements between the two nations while also stressing their “good relationship”.

Sokhonn met members of the House Appropriations Committee, including Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen and Representative Pete Aguilar. Neither congressman took questions after the meeting.

“The prime minister wants to have a good relationship with the US,” said ministry spokesman Chum Sounry after the meeting.

After stressing the positives, Sounry acknowledged there have been “some disagreements” – including repeated assertions over the last year by the ruling party that the US is behind an opposition-led plot to overthrow the government.

Tensions also flared between the two countries when the Kingdom decided to no longer accept deported Cambodians living in the US – many of whom fled Cambodia as refugees.

In response, America issued visa bans against Foreign Affairs officials, and Cambodia summarily suspended its cooperation in the ongoing search for the remains of American soldiers missing since the Vietnam War.

In response to the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and the arrest of its leader Kem Sokha, the US suspended election funding and has imposed partial visa bans.

“The minister expressed concern that the decision of the US to ban the visas for Cambodians is not proper when the two countries are in a good relationship,” Sounry said.

He did not mention the government’s accusations of US-backed attempts at revolution.

Yesterday, Sokhonn repeated his pledge that assistance in the search for remains of missing Americans would resume as soon as visa bans are lifted – a “humanitarian” issue that Sounry said is very important to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The US Embassy declined to comment.

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