Government Says US Praised Protest ‘Patience’

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said Wednesday that a senior U.S. diplomat had congratulated the government for its patience in dealing with recent protests, which were brought to a bloody end early last month when military police opened fire, killing five and wounding more than 40.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said that Scot Marciel, principal deputy assistant secretary at the State Department’s bureau of East Asian and Pacific affairs, commended the government during a meeting with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. 

“The U.S. commended the government, which has been greatly patient until there were tents being set up and such,” Mr. Kuong said of Mr. Marciel’s conversation with Mr. Namhong.

“The Cambodian government has been very patient to the maximum, so the U.S. has condemned any demonstrations causing violence,” he added.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh declined to comment on the details of Mr. Marciel’s conversation with Mr. Namhong.

“[U.S.] Secretary [of State] John Kerry dispatched Ambassador Scot Marciel…to the lower Mekong region on this trip to discuss environmental issues surrounding the Mekong River,” Mr. McIntosh said in response to questions regarding the purported commendation of the government’s handling of recent protests.

Mr. McIntosh added that Mr. Marciel, in his meeting with Mr. Namhong, reiterated U.S. calls for the government to repeal a ban on demonstrations that was put in place following the violent suppression of opposition and labor protests from January 2 to 4.

“As the United States has said…it is very important that freedom of expression and freedom of the assembly are preserved for a healthy democracy, so we are in a position that there should be an immediate reversal of the ban,” Mr. McIntosh said.

Mr. Marciel also encouraged the CPP and CNRP to resume negotiations to break the political impasse, according to Mr. McIntosh.

On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador William Todd used a weekly newspaper column to urge Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP government to undertake reforms to curb corruption and nepotism.

Mr. Marciel also met with opposition leader Kem Sokha on Wednesday morning. Mr. Sokha said that he spoke with Mr. Marciel about the ongoing political deadlock and human rights abuses in Cambodia.

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