Cambodia’s prime minister has slammed the US administration for being dishonest about the “suspension” of aid to the Southeast Asian nation, saying Washington’s aid cut had actually taken place in 2016.
The White House announced Tuesday that it was suspending or curtailing several Treasury, USAID and military aid programs aimed at supporting Cambodia’s military, taxation department and local authorities, claiming that they were all responsible for the country’s recent political instability.
Reacting to the announcement, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Washington’s ambassador to Phnom Penh, William Heidt, was lying and insisted that US aid to Cambodia’s tax department was slashed back in 2016, Reuters reported.
“We, the 16 million people, didn’t receive American aid in the tax sector. This aid was already finished in 2016,” said the prime minister during a speech to thousands of garment workers in the country’s southern province of Preah Sihanouk.
He then added, “Please, US Ambassador, answer this one question: why did you announce cutting aid while there is no aid? Do you intend to distort the reputation of Cambodia?”
The US Embassy in Phnom Penh, however, refused to comment about the prime minister’s remarks.
According to the report, Washington’s decision to partially suspend its aid to Cambodia came amid an ongoing government crackdown on the nation’s political opposition, Hun Sen’s critics, as well as opposition lawmakers and non-governmental organizations months prior to a July general election.
Hun Sen, who the report describes as “a close ally of China,” has often criticized Washington publicly, specifically for dropping bombs on Cambodia during the Vietnam War, which concluded in 1975.
He has also accused the leader of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who was detained and jailed last year, of conspiring with Washington to topple him.
Meanwhile, the White House has said the US had spent over $1 billion worth of aid for Cambodia and that its assistance to the country for health, agriculture and mine-clearing will continue.
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