THE withdrawal of aid by the US and the threat of sanctions by the European Union are “nothing short of an insult,” the Cambodian government said Wednesday.
“It is sad and shocking that our friends have decided to cut their development assistance to Cambodia!” Cambodia’s Council of Ministers spokesmn Phay Siphan wrote on Facebook in response to the aid cuts.
“Such sanctions are nothing short of an insult to Cambodians and hurt those who love real democracy.”
His remarks follow the decision from Washington to cut several US Treasury Department, USAID, and American military assistance programmes that support Cambodia’s taxation department, local governments, and military.
In a statement released Tuesday, the White House cited recent “setbacks to democracy” as the reason behind the decision to suspend the aid programmes.
“Recent setbacks to democracy in Cambodia… caused us deep concern, including Senate elections on February 25 that failed to represent the genuine will of the Cambodian people,” the statement read.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won every seat in Sunday’s election after thousands of opposition lawmakers and local council leaders were stripped of their right to vote and the only credible opposition party was dissolved in November.
Washington has spent more than US$1 billion in support for Cambodia over the last 25 years, the White House said, adding that aid for health care, agriculture, and mine-clearing would continue.
On Monday, the European Union also threatened the Cambodian government with “specific targeted measures,” which diplomats said was a warning to Hun Sen that senior government officials could face sanctions.
The government remains defiant, however, with Phay Siphan saying Cambodia does not need the interference of other nations in their politics.
“Cambodia will continue to be self-sufficient and strive for and build democracy on its own and free from foreign interference,” he wrote.
The now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) applauded the move by the EU and the US and issued a call for dialogue with the CPP to address the current political crisis, reported Radio Free Asia.
The ruling party, however, was quick to dismiss the suggestion, saying on Wednesday that the opposition was “dead.”
“There is no dialogue whatsoever,” CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said. “The CNRP is dead. A dead body cannot come alive again.”
“The call for a national dialogue is nothing but pure frustration expressed by the fugitives and the outlawed that they are now at a dead end.”