USA to deny visas to Cambodian officials over opposition crackdown

Remigio Civitarese
Dicembre 7, 2017

Last month, Cambodia's Supreme Court outlawed the CNRP and banned more than 100 of the party's politicians from practising politics.

Exiled Cambodian opposition politician Mu Sochua, a senior leader of the now-dissolved CNRP, has called on other nations to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. and sanction Cambodia's government, according to the Australian news company ABC.

Hun Sen has been the ruling power in the Kingdom for more than three decades and has been keeping a tight hold on his control through various attempts to defuse political opponents and silence critics.

In recent months, the government has intensified restrictions on civil society groups and independent media outlets.

Cambodia's Supreme Court last month dissolved the primary opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), having arrested its leader Kem Sokha on charges of treason in September. Kem Sokha has been charged with trying to topple the government with US support, which Washington has said is a baseless accusation. Kem Sokha, who rejected the accusation, is in prison. The dissolution of the CNRP has been condemned by some Western countries as the most serious blow to democracy since an worldwide peace deal and United Nations -run elections in the early 1990s ended decades of war and genocide. "The United States is taking concrete steps to respond to the Cambodian Government's actions that have undermined the country's progress in advancing democracy and respect for human rights".

"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", said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

The latest condemnation from the USA comes after the White House cut funding for the nation's upcoming national election, reasoning in a statement issued last month that the 2018 election vote "will not be legitimate, free or fair". The European Union has raised the possibility of withdrawing trade preferences which are vital for the garment industry that accounted for well over 60 percent of Cambodia's exports previous year.

Sam Rainsy served as finance minister in an ill-fated coalition set up when Hun Sen refused to give up power after losing a UN-organised election in 1993.

Lawyer Vong Pheakdey said the complaint filed at Phnom Penh Municipal Court accuses Sam Rainsy of inciting the military to not follow orders, insulting military leaders and causing depression of the armed forces.

Hun Sen said Rainsy, who lives in exile in France, would face new legal action over the comments.

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