Cambodia Turns Against the U.S. as Hun Sen’s Political Crackdown Widens

Cambodia Turns Against the U.S. as Hun Sen’s Political Crackdown Widens
Kem Sokha, a Cambodian opposition leader who was arrested earlier this month, shows his inked finger after voting in local elections on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 4, 2017 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

A chill has settled over U.S.-Cambodia relations. Since the start of the year, Cambodia’s pugnacious prime minister, Hun Sen, has canceled a planned bilateral military exercise, kicked out a U.S. naval engineering battalion working on charity projects, and assailed Washington for refusing to cancel a $500 million war debt from the early 1970s.

This ominous trajectory dipped further with the Sept. 2 arrest of Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha on charges of treason. He is accused of conspiring with the United States to foment a “color revolution” aimed at overthrowing Hun Sen’s government, which has ruled Cambodia since 1979.

Sokha, the president of the popular Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, faces up to 30 years in prison. The government has since announced investigations of other CNRP officials and has suggested that the party could be dissolved if it continues to back its jailed leader.

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