Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US responds to Hun Sen’s criticism of embassy

US responds to Hun Sen’s criticism of embassy

Prime Minister Hun Sen and US President Donald Trump pose for a photograph on Sunday night in Manila.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and US President Donald Trump pose for a photograph on Sunday night in Manila. Photo supplied

US responds to Hun Sen’s criticism of embassy

The United States’ Asean mission yesterday rebutted criticism by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who told US President Donald Trump in a speech at the Asean Summit in Manila that the US Embassy in Phnom Penh was violating a purported new American policy of noninterference.

In a press release, the US mission to Asean said Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs Matt Pottinger, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia W Patrick Murphy had met Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn in Manila yesterday on the sidelines of the Asean Summit, and had “expressed strong concerns” about recent political developments in the Kingdom.

They highlighted “restrictions on the free press, civil society, and the political opposition” and voiced “deep concerns” about the detention of opposition leader Kem Sokha, arrested in September on widely criticised charges of “treason”.

In his speech at the summit on Monday, Hun Sen lauded Trump personally as a kindred spirit and for his purported foreign policy of noninterference, but asked him to warn his officials in Phnom Penh to stop violating this policy.

Apparently responding to the remarks, yesterday’s statement said Pottinger and Murphy had “noted that unfounded accusations and criticisms of the United States, including US diplomats in Cambodia, contradict the spirit of improved and productive bilateral relations between our two countries”.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
US President Donald Trump gestures to the press as US National Security Advisor HR McMaster (L) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) look on after attending the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit yesterday in Manila. Jim Watson/AFP

Hun Sen’s remarks came after weeks of heated anti-US rhetoric from himself and other government officials, who have accused the US of colluding with the opposition to foment “revolution” in Cambodia, accusations denied by the embassy.

But ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesperson Sok Eysan said yesterday that in order to maintain good relations, the embassy had to respect “Donald Trump’s foreign affairs”, which he maintained they did not.

“What [Hun Sen] said is true and obvious . . . They interfere in the internal work of Cambodia and take sides with the opposition party, and put pressure on the legitimate government,” he said.

“This is proved by their words, actions, statements and attitude,” he said, adding that there was no point in denying the diplomats’ bias and purported interference. “Fact is fact. The truth cannot be deleted.”

However, political analyst Ou Virak said the embassy and Trump’s foreign affairs shouldn’t be considered separate. “The state department is expected to defend its embassies and I am pretty sure the embassy is acting at [the] behest of . . . the US government,” he said in a message.

The US Embassy declined to comment yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • US to ramp up sanctions after ‘flawed’ national polls

    At a press conference on Wednesday, the US State Department announced that it would expand visa sanctions on the Cambodian officials and individuals it deems responsible for “undermining democracy” in Cambodia. At the briefing, spokesperson Heather Nauert reiterated that the department regarded the July 29 elections

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National