Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday blasted the United States over its bombardment of Cambodia and demands the country pay debt incurred by the Lon Nol-era during the 1970s.
Speaking at the inauguration of a stretch of National Road 1 in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen said that the US bombarded Cambodia during the 1960s and 1970s but demanded Cambodia pay about $500 million in debt incurred by the Lon Nol regime.
“The issue is that they used an axe to beat, stained their axe with blood and then they keep demanding that we pay for their axe,” Mr Hun Sen said.
Mr Hun Sen did not specify the country by name but referred to US interference in Cambodian affairs in the 1960s and 1970s, and the millions of US bombs dropped on Cambodia.
“It is very pitiful for our country which has experienced wars. Cambodia must be the owner of its country,” he said, adding that the country needs to determine its own fate rather than have it be dictated by a foreign country.
“So, Cambodia must be the owner of its own fate, and does not bend to someone’s pressure,” Mr Hun Sen said.
The debt was originally a $274 million loan for food supplies for the Lon Nol regime in the 1960s, but has grown to about $500 million.
Last year, Mr Hun Sen asked US President Donald Trump to turn Cambodia’s war-era debt into development aid.
Mr Hun Sen pledged to protect the country and maintain peace because human resources and infrastructure had been destroyed during decades of war.
“Cambodia need assistance, cooperation and partnerships with friendly countries,” he said. “Only Cambodian people can make their decisions. No one can die instead of us.”
The White House said last month that it was suspending and curtailing several Treasury, USAID and military assistance programmes that support Cambodia’s military, taxation department and local authorities, all of which, it said, shared blame for recent instability.
The US has taken a strong stance against the dissolution of the opposition CNRP, which was dissolved in the wake of its leader Kem Sokha being jailed on treason charges after being accused of conspiring with the US to topple the government through a colour revolution.
According to data released in 2000, the US dropped two million bombs – 800,000 tonnes – on Cambodia from 1963 to 1975, with the aim of destroying Viet Cong invaders.
David Josar, deputy spokesman for the US embassy, said yesterday that the US has tried to seek solutions with Cambodia over its debt.
“The United States remains interested in finding a solution to Cambodia’s agricultural debt to the United States. There have been no substantive discussions of the debt over the past year, but we are ready to engage at any time with Cambodia,” he said.