Cambodia Orders U.S.-Funded Group to Halt Operations, Remove Staff
Reuters / | 23 August 2017
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia ordered a U.S.-funded nonprofit organization to stop its activities and remove all foreign staff from the country on Wednesday, the latest sign of growing anti-American sentiment ahead of a general election next year.
In a statement, the foreign ministry accused the National Democratic Institute (NDI) of operating in Cambodia without registering, and said its foreign staff had seven days to leave.
Authorities were "geared up to take the same measures" against other foreign NGOs which fail to comply with the law, the ministry added.
According to its website, the NDI works with political parties, governments and civic groups to "establish and strengthen democratic institutions."
The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh and the NDI did not reply to Reuters' requests for comment.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than three decades, on Tuesday ordered the English-language The Cambodia Daily newspaper to pay taxes accrued over the past decade or face closure. The paper was founded by an American.
He also lashed out at the United States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and accused them of funding groups attempting to overthrow his government.
Hun Sen's anti-Western sentiment comes amid what rights groups and the United Nations say is an increasingly tense situation ahead of elections in 2018.
The opposition has accused Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of a crackdown on its critics and last week a U.N. human rights envoy warned Cambodia it "appeared to be approaching a precipice".
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights said on Wednesday that the NDI had not been given adequate opportunity to respond to the accusations against it.
"The fact that this comes in a context of increasing repression of freedom of expression and civil society space in Cambodia is all the more worrying, and hints at continued attempts by the ruling party to consolidate power ahead of next year's national elections," group Chair Charles Santiago said.
The Overseas Press Club of Cambodia on Wednesday asked the government to proceed against The Cambodia Daily with "fairness and due process".
It noted that the paper had a history of running stories that have angered the government.