Cambodia laughs off Washington threats | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 08, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:29 AM, December 08, 2017

HUN SEN'S CLAMPDOWN ON DEMOCRACY

Cambodia laughs off Washington threats

Cambodia's government yesterday laughed off rare efforts by Donald Trump's administration to punish it over a clampdown on democracy and human rights, as the kingdom effectively becomes a one-party state under strongman Hun Sen.

The State Department said Wednesday it would bar Cambodian officials deemed to have been "undermining democracy" from entry to the US.

That came after Cambodia's Supreme Court last month dissolved the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and redistributed its seats to factions allied with Hun Sen's ruling party.

The dissolution followed the arrest of CNRP leader Kem Sokha for treason. Dozens of other party members have fled the country in a snowballing crackdown on critics of the prime minister.

The State Department said its move was a "direct response to the Cambodian government's series of anti-democratic actions".

Hun Sen, one of the world's longest serving leaders, has used the kingdom's pliant judiciary to smother his critics as elections loom.

Ties between the two nations have withered in recent months with Hun Sen preferring Beijing's no-questions-asked offer of loans and investment to Washington's opprobrium on rights as he looks to extend his 32-year grip on power.

"If Cambodian people cannot go to US, it is ok, it is not a problem," government spokesman Sok Eysan said, shrugging off the State Department threats.

"If we can not join any meetings in the US, there are many other meetings outside the US that we can join."

The State Department did not disclose which Cambodian ruling party officials would be affected by the restrictions.

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