CAMBODIA’S government on Thursday called on the United States to reconsider visa restrictions imposed in response to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ongoing crackdown against political opponents and freedom of expression.
As reported by Radio Free Asia, ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesperson Sok Ey San called on the US to rethink the restrictions, accusing the State Department of “having double standards” by contradicting what he called US President Donald Trump’s “policy of non-interference” in the affairs of sovereign states.
“It affects our feelings, and the US [government] should reconsider this issue, because Cambodia is a tiny country that doesn’t possess even tiny missiles, let alone nuclear weapons,” he said.
“Therefore, we request this superpower country to kindly permit tiny Cambodia to live in peace.”
His remarks follow a statement Wednesday from the US State Department announcing visa restrictions on individuals it said were involved in “undermining democracy” in Cambodia.
.@statedeptspox: In direct response to the Cambodian government’s series of anti-democratic actions, we announce the Secretary of State will restrict entry into the United States of those individuals involved in undermining democracy in #Cambodia. https://t.co/WXyUN5ZkfB pic.twitter.com/NI43ecV5aB
— Department of State (@StateDept) December 6, 2017
Hun Sen’s government must “reverse course by reinstating the political opposition, releasing Kem Sokha, and allowing civil society and media to resume their constitutionally protected activities,” if they want the travel restrictions to be lifted, the statement said.
In November, the Cambodian Supreme Court dissolved the only credible opposition party in the country. Two months prior, opposition leader Kem Sokha was arrested on charges of treason, he remains in jail awaiting trial. Hun Sen’s government has also overseen a crackdown on press freedom, shuttered organisations that voice anti-government sentiment, and closed US-funded NGOs.
Sok Ey San accused the US of “using its influence to put pressure on Cambodia on behalf of the opposition party,” according to RFA, referencing accusations that Kem Sokha had colluded with Washington to bring down the CPP, which the US embassy has denied.
He said the CPP had “made great efforts to build Cambodia into a country that truly respects democratic principles,” and that the party’s actions against political opponents and organisations were simply meant to “reinforce the rule of law.”