Paris Peace Accords 23 Oct. 1991

Friday, August 25, 2017

[Vietnamization: Elections] US takes aim at Cambodia over attacks on NGO and media

Consolidating power: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen © AFP

US takes aim at Cambodia over attacks on NGO and media

Hun Sen accused of undermining democracy by targeting western-backed institutions

The Financial Times | 23 August 2017

The Trump administration has accused Cambodia of undermining democracy after the Southeast Asian nation moved to expel a US non-governmental organisation and launched a clampdown on several media groups. 

Heather Nauert, US state department spokesperson, said Washington was “deeply concerned” by what she described as the deterioration in the democratic climate in Cambodia. 

Cambodia is one of several Asian countries that has begun to shun western advisers in recent years and turned to China for economic and military support. 

“Two months ago, Cambodia received widespread recognition for running transparent, peaceful local elections. In the past two weeks, however, the achievement has been eclipsed by troubling government actions curtailing freedom of the press and civil society’s ability to operate,” Ms Nauert said. 

The comments were in response to moves by the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, which has launched a crackdown on some of the country’s longest-standing western-backed institutions including the National Democratic Institute, an American NGO that has been in Cambodia since 1992. 

The NDI was on Wednesday given one week to exit the country after authorities accused it of failing to pay its taxes and register properly as an NGO. Separately, the authorities have given the Cambodia Daily — an English language newspaper published in the country since 1993 — 30 days to pay a $6.3m tax bill or face closure and have its assets seized. 

The Cambodian government said the newspaper had not paid taxes for years, while the paper said it was run as a non-profit and authorities had not explained the tax demand. 

In a speech this week, Mr Hun Sen called the newspaper a thief that owed the country money. He also recently lashed out at the US, saying it had led to chaos in countries such as Iraq and Syria, something he would not allow to happen in Cambodia. 

The moves come as Cambodia draws closer to elections planned for July 2018. Mr Hun Sen has been in power since the early 1990s, making him one of the world’s longest-serving leaders. His administration has long been plagued by accusations of corruption and violence against political opponents.

As well as citing the decision to expel the NDI, Ms Nauert said the Trump administration was also concerned about the closure of an opposition-aligned radio station. Government tax probes into media groups including Cambodia Daily and Voice of America, a US government-funded radio station, were also concerning, she added. 

The criticism comes as Donald Trump continues to come under scrutiny for his attacks on the US media, and also his controversial remarks following the violent protests in Charlottesville in which he said there were “very fine people” among the white nationalist demonstrators. 

Ms Nauert rejected suggestions that Mr Trump’s rhetoric undermined efforts to promote free speech and media freedom. She said the US would continue to push a message of free speech — whether in Turkey, Cambodia, Venezuela or elsewhere — saying: “That is something that we take very seriously.” 

Her remarks come as the US uses sanctions to put pressure on the regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela for trying to solidify his grip on power using undemocratic methods. The Trump administration has separately withheld $95m in aid for Egypt over concerns about human rights violations — a move that came despite Mr Trump warmly welcoming President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the White House earlier this year.


  1. Anonymous3:27 AM

    “Two months ago, Cambodia received widespread recognition for running transparent, peaceful local elections." That's laughable. Are you blind or stupid? The election wasn't transparent nor peaceful. It was chaotic and bloody.

    1. Anonymous3:35 AM

      Well, it's all because of you, Minh Nguyen!!!

    2. Anonymous11:27 AM

      There was no fight, no blood in the last election.