The United States yesterday said it wants the political situation in Cambodia to return to normal as soon as possible, urging the reinstatement of the opposition CNRP and the release of its leader Kem Sokha.
Patrick Murphy, deputy assistant US secretary of state, made the comments in a meeting with Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The two sides used the meeting to discuss recent political developments in the country and regional security.
“Mr Murphy wants the government to revert the situation to normal,” Mr Borith told reporters after the meeting. “I told him that what we are doing is within the legal framework of Cambodia and to protect sovereignty, stability, peace and national security.”
“Kem Sokha himself confessed in video footage that he was advised and helped by the US to push regime change in Cambodia,” he added.
On November 16, the Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP and banned 118 of its members from politics for five years.
The meeting yesterday also saw both sides agree to better cooperation, particularly on the issues of human rights and democracy.
“Cambodia considers human rights to be the internal affairs of each country,” Mr Borith said. “Human rights and democracy are issues for individual countries. None are perfect and all countries have problems, so it is necessary for us to cooperate together in order to reform the situation based on respecting each other and sovereignty to avoid interference in the internal affairs of each country.”
He added that the general election in 2018 will not be a single party race.
Mr Murphy meanwhile asked Cambodia to reconsider continuing the operation to find and repatriate the remains of US soldiers missing since the Indochina conflict.
“I told him that Cambodia was the first country in the region that allowed the US to search for the remains of soldiers in the 1980s,” Mr Borith said. “It was difficult when we decided to stop searching for the remains, but it was caused by the US visa sanctions against Cambodian officials.
“When the visa sanctions are lifted we will resume the search immediately.”
On the issue of Khmer-American citizens with criminal convictions who are due to be deported to Cambodia, Mr Borith said the country is committed to working with the US to receive the returnees based on humanitarian principles.
“The Prime Minister has said we will receive all Khmer people who were convicted,” Mr Borith said, adding that about 70 people will be sent back to Cambodia later this month or in January.
Mr Murphy offered his thanks to Cambodia for receiving the deportees.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Brendan Raedy said he could not comment on future removal flights.
“There are more than 1,900 Cambodian nationals residing in the United States who are subject to a final order of removal, of whom 1,412 have criminal convictions,” he said.
Regarding regional security, both sides discussed the issue of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
“Cambodia considers security a priority and we strongly support the end to nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsular,” Mr Borith said.
He said Cambodia supported China and Russia’s “double freeze” suggestion that would require North Korea to cease testing nuclear weapons and missiles, while South Korea and the US would need to halt military exercises.