United States criticizes Cambodia for ordering group out

Ausiliatrice Cristiano
Agosto 24, 2017

The United States is strongly criticizing Cambodia for ordering an American democracy group to leave the country and pressuring dissenting news media " chiding a government whose leader says he shares President Donald Trump's disdain for the press.

Cambodia's foreign ministry says the US -based National Democratic Institute must cease operations and remove its foreign staff from the country within a week.

The NDI, chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

And the Cambodian Daily itself, which is owned by an American, was recently ordered to pay US$6.3 million in back taxes by Sept 4 or be closed and its assets confiscated.

The U.S. State Department said it was "deeply concerned" by the deterioration in Cambodia's democratic climate in recent weeks, including the order against the pro-democracy group and a threat to close a newspaper founded by an American journalist.

Next year, PM Hun Sen is expected to try and hold on to the position he's held since the 1980s in forthcoming elections. Hun Sen's critics say his party is cracking down on political opposition.

The opposition has accused Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of a crackdown on its critics and last week a United Nations human rights envoy warned Cambodia it "appeared to be approaching a precipice".

The decision to shut down the NDI was purportedly made when leaked documents surfaced on the Cambodian government-aligned media website, Fresh News.

She is citing Cambodia's order to expel the Washington-based National Democratic Institute and the closure of the only opposition radio station. It outlines how the parties are working together to create what is known as a colour revolution in the country, the Khmer Times reported.

The US Embassy has come out and defended the NDI as an impartial group. They say the NDI has been in Cambodia since 1992 and has worked with major political parties, including Hun Sen's ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP). In the context of rising repression of freedom of expression, they said the order to shut down operations was worrying.

Spokesman Heather Nauert said "some publications are being taxed at an exorbitant rate" and urged on the government "to allow NDI, the Cambodia Daily and other independent media and civil society organisations to continue their important activities so that Cambodia's 2018 national elections can take place in a free and open environment".

The Overseas Press Club of Cambodia on Wednesday asked the government to proceed against The Cambodia Daily with "fairness and due process".

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