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

  • Proof giants walked among us humans?

    For years a debate has waged about whether certain bas relief carvings at the 12th-century To Prohm Temple, one of the most popular attractions at the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap province, depicted dinosaurs or some rather less exotic and more contemporary animal,

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • Japan bank buys major stake in ANZ Royal Bank

    Japan's largest bank acquired more than half of ANZ’s shares in Cambodia on Thursday, according to a statement from Kith Meng’s Royal Group. Japan's JTrust Bank, announced that they had acquired a 55% of stake in ANZ Royal Bank. According to a Royal Group