CAMBODIA’S Foreign Ministry has issued an unusual defence of some of the government’s recent actions accusing Western governments, NGOs and journalists of secretly plotting and conspiring to bring about the regime’s downfall.
According to The Cambodia Daily, the statement entitled “To tell the truth” took on a number of issues from the past couple of years, in a rambling fashion, with the stated aim of “setting the record straight.”
The 11-page document made sweeping accusations against a number of institutions; most notably accusing the political opposition of criminal activity, Western governments of seeking regime change, and news outlets of malicious anti-government bias.
The ministry singled out a handful of key players as the worst offenders – the most prominent of which was the United States.
The ministry accuses the US of a “campaign of disinformation” and of supporting “racists and Holocaust non-believers”.
Cambodia has amplified its criticisms of the US since Donald Trump took office back in January. Analysts believe it is in response to a US$500million worth of war-era debt Washington is still insisting Cambodia repay.
Hun Sen prime minister of Cambodia, he doesn't different from President of Syria & Leader of North Korea. Cambodians need change !
— Sourn Serey Ratha (@SournSereyRatha) April 14, 2017
The mounting tensions between the two nations have resulted in the cancelling of routine joint military exercises for the next two years and the suspension of a US Navy mission specialising in humanitarian work in Cambodia.
Cambodia’s growing ties with China are also thought to play a part in the increasing divide. Beijing has showered the country with investment, aid and loans, all of which come free of the stringent human rights conditions demanded by the White House.
In response to the uncharacteristically lengthy statement, the US Embassy issued a cutting and concise response.
“We encourage the government of Cambodia to expend less energy propagating unfounded conspiracy theories and instead devote its resources to addressing the needs of the Cambodian people and ensuring its upcoming elections are free and fair,” US Embassy spokesman David Josar said, as reported by The Cambodia Daily.
The ministry’s break from form is unusual for a government used to sharp and succinct critiques.
Cham Bunthet, a political analyst and adviser to the opposition Grassroots Democracy Party, believes this may be due to the upcoming commune elections and the government’s fear of a strong performance by main opposition party, the CNRP.
The statement, he said, primarily displayed the government’s refusal to acknowledge the extent of its own failings by spending most of its words blaming others.
“[You] point out everything bad about others but nothing about yourself. It’s just more politics,” he said.
“You can’t judge other people harder than yourself if you are a responsible person.”
“I see this as more like trying to send a message to the community,” he added. “Maybe it’s more of a warning than a statement.”