Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday said that Cambodia will allow the United States to continue searching for the remains of American soldiers killed in the Vietnam War if the US lifts its visa restrictions on high-ranking government officials.
Mr Hun Sen made the suggestion during a sideline meeting with Alexander Feldman, US-Asean Business Council president, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“If the United States lifts their visa restrictions, then the search for missing American soldiers will continue,” he said. “Cambodia wants to become good friends with the US. I want to see the relationship between the two countries improve in the future.”
The US last year began issuing travel bans on high-ranking government officials after the arrest of former opposition leader Kem Sokha on treason charges for allegedly colluding with the US to topple the government and following the dissolution of the former opposition CNRP in November.
General Hing Bun Hieng, the commander of Mr Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, in June became the travel ban’s latest casualty.
The US Treasury department issued the travel ban on Gen Bun Hieng, stating that the commander was “seriously involved in human rights abuse”.
During his visit in New York, Mr Hun Sen reassured international partners that Cambodia is cooperating on the issue of human rights.
On Saturday, Mr Hun Sen met with António Guterres, UN secretary-general, to announce that Cambodia will uphold an MoU allowing the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue operating in Cambodia for an additional two years.
He noted that the MoU with OHCHR was due to expire in late 2018, but said that Cambodia will extend cooperation.
During the meet with Mr Guterres, Mr Hun Sen revealed that he will pay Geneva a visit in October, and that an MoU on the extension will be signed by Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn.
“Cambodia is willing to continue work on human rights with the UN,” Mr Hun Sen said.
Mr Hun Sen also noted that Cambodia will continue to support UN global peacekeeping missions.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Mr Hun Sen said that Mr Guterres expressed gratitude for Cambodia’s cooperation.
“The UN Secretary General said that Cambodia has been willing to help the UN, especially for the attendance of Cambodian blue helmet forces,” he said.
On Friday, Mr Hun Sen also met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and announced that Cambodia will reopen its embassy in Sofia next year.
“In 2019, Cambodia will organise the reopening of our embassy in Bulgaria after it was closed because of a political situation in Bulgaria,” Mr Hun Sen said.
Mr Borissov said that he favoured the reopening of the Cambodian embassy in Sofia. He said that both countries have pledged to enhance cooperation and strengthen economic ties.
At the end of the meeting, Mr Hun Sen told Mr Borissov that Cambodia aims to host the Asia-Europe Meeting in 2020.