Cambodia rejects US sanctions as “politically motivated” – The Journal


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Cambodia rejects “politically motivated” sanctions imposed by the United States on two senior defense officials over corruption allegations, accompanied by a broader warning of systemic corruption in the Southeast Asian nation

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) – Cambodia on Thursday rejected “politically motivated” sanctions imposed by the United States on two senior defense officials over corruption allegations, accompanied by a broader warning of systemic corruption in this Southeast Asian country.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia had not been informed in advance of the sanctions, which are tied to funding the construction of the Ream naval base – a project that has raised concerns in states. -United on the involvement of China. He said Cambodia did not intend to respond to Washington.

“The sanctions imposed by the US government were taken unilaterally and their decision was not based on the rule of law – it is an injustice for Cambodia,” he told The Associated Press.

“These sanctions were politically motivated, and it is not Cambodia’s position to discuss this with the United States,” he said.

The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to say whether Cambodia had been in contact about the sanctions, but said the move would not have come as a surprise.

“US officials have regularly raised concerns with Cambodian officials about systemic corruption, transnational organized crime and human rights violations,” embassy spokesman Chad Roedemeier said.

“Unfortunately, there have been no significant changes,” he added.

The sanctions, announced Wednesday by the US Treasury Department, target Chau Phirun, director general of the Department of Material and Technical Services at the Ministry of Defense, and Tea Vinh, commander of the Royal Cambodian Navy and brother of the Cambodian Minister of Defense Tea Banh.

The Treasury Department alleged that in 2020 and 2021, Chau conspired with Tea and other Cambodian officials to inflate the costs of the Ream naval base construction project, then planned to use the funds on their own. profit.

“Chau and Tea have been implicated in acts of corruption that have undermined the rule of law and the confidence of the Cambodian public in their government institutions and public processes, including using their political influence and official power for personal gain.” , said the US State Department. spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Neither the Cambodian Defense Ministry nor the Royal Cambodian Navy could be reached immediately for comment.

The sanctions make Chau, Tea, and their immediate family members ineligible to enter the United States and freeze any United States assets they hold. The Treasury Department did not say if the individual or his immediate family had any financial interests in the United States.

In addition to the sanctions, the Treasury Department, State Department, and Commerce Department issued a business advisory warning U.S. companies “to be aware of interactions with entities involved in corrupt business practices, criminal activities and human rights violations ”.

He identified two main areas of risk: illegal financial activities in the finance, real estate, casino and infrastructure sectors, and entities involved in trafficking in humans, wildlife and drugs. and “related risks in certain areas of the manufacturing and lumber sectors”.

US relations with the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, in office for 36 years, have long been frosty in the face of concerns over the country’s poor human and political rights record.

In recent months, the United States has expressed new concerns about Cambodia-China relations and urged Cambodian leaders, who frequently support Beijing’s positions, to maintain an independent and balanced foreign policy.

New tensions have centered in part on China’s building of facilities at Ream Naval Base and the possibility that its military will seek future base rights there. Hun Sen strongly denied reports that Cambodia would allow China to set up a military outpost there, saying such a deal would be prohibited by the Cambodian constitution.

The base faces the Gulf of Thailand, which is adjacent to the South China Sea, and holding base rights in Cambodia would significantly expand Beijing’s strategic military profile.

In a meeting with Hun Sen in June, US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman expressed concern over China’s construction of new facilities in Ream.

She also sought clarification on the demolition of two US-funded buildings in Ream without notification or explanation, and “observed that a (Chinese) military base in Cambodia would undermine its sovereignty, threaten regional security and have a negative impact on regional security. negative impact on US-Cambodia relations, “according to the State Department.

FILE – A Cambodian navy crew stands on a patrol boat at Ream Naval Base in Sihanoukville, southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 26, 2019. The US Treasury Department imposed Wednesday, November 10, 2021. Sanctions imposed by the United States on two senior defense officials over corruption allegations, accompanied by a broader warning of systemic corruption in the Southeast Asian nation. (AP Photo / Heng Sinith, file)

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