U.S. embassy officials in Cambodia should “pack up and leave” if they do not like the country, a Cambodian government spokesman said on Thursday.
The statement came after U.S. diplomats in Phnom Penh criticized Cambodia’s July 2018 election. They said on social media that the election had “failed to represent the will of the Cambodian people.” The embassy officials made the comment to mark one year since the vote.
In that election, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) won all 125 parliamentary seats. The CCP’s complete victory followed the dissolution of the main opposition party. Rights groups said the election was neither free nor fair.
But a Cambodian government spokesman rejected the criticism. Phay Siphan said U.S. officials should not make such “barbaric comments.”
“Although we are friends, if these officials don’t like Cambodia, they should pack up and leave. Let me be clear: We don’t welcome you,” Siphan told reporters on Thursday.
Siphan said he was using the language of U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump recently told four ethnic minority lawmakers to “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
“We have the same right to speak as President Donald Trump. It’s simple. If you don’t like it here, leave,” Siphan said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy would not comment.
The American officials’ Facebook post said the 2018 election excluded the main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). The Cambodian supreme court dissolved the party in 2017.
The supreme court also banned 118 of the CNRP’s elected officials from politics for five years. The party’s leader, Kem Sokha, spent more than a year in jail on treason charges. He was released from prison in 2018, but put under house arrest in Phnom Penh.
For years, Cambodia has been criticized by human rights organizations. It has increasingly turned toward its main ally, China, for diplomatic and financial support. The U.S. has expressed concern about military ties between Cambodia and China.
The Wall Street Journal reported in July that China and Cambodia made a secret agreement to allow Chinese forces to use a Cambodian Naval base on the Gulf of Thailand. Hun Sen’s government denied the report.
I’m Susan Shand.
The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
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Words in This Story
dissolution – n. the act of officially ending a marriage, organization, or agreement
barbaric – adj. very rude or offensive
infest – v. to be all over a place in large numbers