Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has reportedly challenged his former allies in Washington to end all aid after the US announced it was cutting funding for the 2018 general election.
Meanwhile, two Cambodian journalists were charged over the weekend with spying after dispatches they allegedly filed to US-based Radio Free Asia (RFA).
The Supreme Court in Phnom Penh dissolved the main opposition party last week and appeared to have formalised one-party rule after decades of faltering democracy.
The murder of Kem Ley, a popular journalist and government critic, in July 2016 has been widely seen as marking a turning point.
The US announced on Friday it would not fund the general election and threatened to take “concrete steps” after the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved at the request of Hun Sen’s government.
A former Khmer Rouge cadre, Hun Sen, 65, fled Cambodia in 1977 and returned with the Vietnamese military during that country’s war against the savage regime in 1979. He was first appointed foreign minister and was named prime minister in the Vietnamese-supported government in 1985.
The pro-government Fresh News website reported that Hun Sen made a speech in which he welcomed cuts in US aid. China has long since displaced the US as Cambodia’s main backer.
“Hun Sen confirmed that cutting US aid won’t kill the government but will only kill a group of people who serve American policies,” the Fresh News report said.
In April, the US embassy said it would invest US$1.8 million to fund municipal elections in June this year and the 2018 general election.
Hun Sen’s crackdown on the media has included the closure of the independent Cambodia Daily in September and the axing of 19 radio stations in recent months.
Uon Chhin and Yeang Socheameta of the Washington-based RFA were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly providing information to a foreign power. The offence carries up to 15 years in prison.
RFA was forced to shut its bureau in September after 20 years, due to a series of legal threats.
The broadcaster blamed “intimidation” and threats that it was violating tax and registration regulations.
Cambodia’s poverty is not being addressed. Picture credit: Pixabay