US suspension on visas for senior officials puts Cambodia in retaliation mode
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US suspension on visas for senior officials puts Cambodia in retaliation mode

CAMBODIA is suspending cooperation with the United States to find the remains of Americans killed in the Vietnam War in the latest ratcheting up of tensions between the two countries.

Its Prime Minister Hun Sen has accused the United States of plotting treason with opposition leader Kem Sokha, an accusation rejected by the US embassy, which has called for the release of the prime minister’s main rival.

“The search cooperation is postponed until a number of issues are resolved between Cambodia and the United States,” Hun Sen said according to pro-government website Fresh News, on Thursday.

Hun Sen said that a total of 80 American soldiers had gone missing in Cambodia during the war in neighbouring Vietnam and that half of them had been found.

“So far, only 40 [of these] have been found, and there remain around 40 more,” Hun Sen said.

2017-09-12T084437Z_869697082_RC12ADFF8E30_RTRMADP_3_CAMBODIA-POLITICS

U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt speaks during a news conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia September 12, 2017. Source: Reuters/Samrang Pring

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Hun Sen said the suspension will be lifted after Cambodia-US ties are restored. Washington announced on Wednesday that it would stop issuing some visas after Cambodia refused to accept Cambodian citizens deported from the United States after being convicted of crimes there.

Hun Sen said the policy of deporting them back to Cambodia “break them up as families, as parents and children, and it’s an inhumane (situation) in which some have committed suicide”.

The Vietnam War that ended in 1975 remains an emotive issue in Cambodia.

Hun Sen says the United States has never apologised for its role in bombing his country to try to kill Vietnamese communist guerrillas and should forgive debts built up by a pro-U.S. junta that ruled until it was ousted by the genocidal Khmer Rouge.

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On a separate issue, Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it would accept deportees from the United States.

According to Radio Free Asia, the ministry said it was “surprised” at the decision to deny visas to senior members of the Cambodian government, denying accusations that it has ended cooperation with US efforts to repatriate Cambodian nationals convicted of crimes in the US. The ministry also called linkage of the two issues “unreasonable.”

“Cambodia is still prepared to accept its nationals who will be deported by the US and will try by all means to ensure that those Cambodians will be successfully reintegrated into society and begin their new lives with the fullest decency and dignity,” the foreign ministry said a statement on Thursday.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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