Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday brushed aside any potential concern over the US cutting funding to the country over the recent dissolution of the opposition CNRP prior to next year’s general election.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP and banned 118 CNRP members from political activity for five years at the request of the Interior Ministry in the wake of its leader Kem Sokha being jailed on treason charges.
In response, the White House condemned the action, announcing the US would cut election funding and demanding the release of Mr Sokha, who is accused of colluding with the US to topple the government.
“The United States will take concrete steps to respond to the Cambodian government’s deeply regrettable actions,” the US said.
“As a first step, we will terminate support for the Cambodian National Election Committee and its administration of the upcoming 2018 national election.
“On current course next year’s election will not be legitimate, free, or fair. The Cambodian government still has time to reverse course.
“We call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to undo its recent actions against the CNRP, release imprisoned CNRP leader Kem Sokha, and allow opposition parties, civil society, and the media to maintain their legitimate activities.”
Mr Hun Sen responded yesterday while addressing about 5,000 garment workers, telling them that the US actions would not affect the country and would only hurt democracy.
“Mr Hun Sen confirmed that cutting US aid won’t kill the government but would only kill a group of people who serve American policies,” the Fresh News website reported the Prime Minster as saying.
The Fresh News report did not identify the people suspected of serving US policies but added: “Hun Sen welcomes and encourages the US to cut all aid.”
The US, which added that the CNRP’s dissolution was “based on meritless and politicised allegations that it participated in a conspiracy to overthrow the government”, had committed to providing $1.8 million for last June’s commune election and the general election next year.
The US State Department said on its website that assistance to Cambodia for programmes in health, education, governance, economic growth and clearing unexploded ordnance were worth more than $77.6 million in 2014.
However, Chinese support for big ticket projects has allowed Mr Hun Sen to brush off Western criticism of his crackdown on dissent.
China vastly outspends the United States in a country once destroyed by Cold War superpower rivalry, and its money goes on highly visible infrastructure projects and with no demands for political reform.
Since Thursday’s decision, the government has ordered all CNRP banners to be removed, and has stripped its representatives of their salaries and state-issued benefits.
On Saturday the CNRP’s headquarters in Chak Angre Loeu commune had its banner removed.
Pol Ham, formerly the CNRP’s vice-president, declined to comment.
Mao Monyvann, a former CNRP’s lawmaker said: “Now I am living in Cambodia and I became a normal citizen, so I cannot comment.”
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman of the Interior Ministry, said authorities would give the former party one week to dismantle all its propaganda across the nation.