Government Takes Soft Line on Claims of US ‘Listening Stations’

The Cambodian government will not investigate reports that the U.S. government is using its Phnom Penh embassy to monitor communications and collect data in the country.

The governments of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and China released angrily-worded statements on Friday after the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper published a map showing 90 U.S. embassies—including Cam­bodia’s—that form part of a joint CIA-National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance network ac­cused of monitoring global radio, telephone and Internet communications.

The monitoring undertaken by the U.S. “listening station” em­bassies across Asia included the personal communications of those at the highest levels of the governments, according to the Sydney Morning Herald article.

On Friday, the Malaysian government summoned the country’s U.S. ambassador to demand an explanation for the claims while Indonesia summoned Aus­tralia’s ambassador to re­spond to claims that the Aus­tralian Embassy in Jakarta was also part of the network.

Cambodian Defense Minister General Tea Banh said in an interview with the U.S.-funded Voice of America radio service that the Cambodian government would likely not lodge a complaint regarding the allegations. Gen. Banh said that the difficulty in substantiating the accusations would render such moves unwise.

“If they do it for surveillance or spying, it is surely hard to confirm,” he told VOA. “There might be no evidence to make any allegation. This is almost impossible.”

VOA also quoted Interior Minister Sar Kheng as registering his bewilderment at the claims made against the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.

“The U.S. is normally a promoter of democracy, freedom and human rights, but why would they do this?” Mr. Kheng said. “I don’t know what they want.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Monday that the government had not discussed the matter since the broadcast of Mr. Kheng and Gen. Banh’s comments on Friday.

He said that the decision of whether to approach the U.S. over the claims lies solely in the hands of Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Mr. Kheng, who could not be reached for comment.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

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