Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday met with a visiting delegation of U.S. Congress members, including House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi, a government spokesman said.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Ms. Pelosi’s delegation met Mr. Hun Sen at his office in Phnom Penh on Monday morning.
Ms. Pelosi said in a statement last night that the delegation met with the prime minister for more than two hours.
“[W]e engaged in a dialogue about issues related to the suppression of freedom of expression and association, corruption, and unfair labor practices and land rights,” Ms. Pelosi says in the statement.
“The Prime Minister gave us his view of Cambodia-U.S. relations in past decades,” she adds. “The discussion was constructive, candid and useful in addressing the challenges ahead.”
In addition to the meeting with Mr. Hun Sen, the U.S. delegation, which includes veteran New York congressman Charles Rangel, met with civil society groups Monday afternoon at the U.S. Embassy.
Ms. Pelosi also says in her statement that among the concerns raised by civil society organizations during their meeting were fair election practices, the independence of the judiciary, Internet freedom and violations of workers’ rights.
“Their presentations were consistent with the recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on garment factories, which we called to the attention of the Prime Minister,” she says.
Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, who attended the meeting, said the congressional delegation was particularly concerned with reported labor abuses in the country’s garment sector.
“They made a note at the end that it is important that the consumer of the product cares about whether the product they import is involved with any human rights violations,” she added.
Earlier this month, HRW released a 140-page report about Cambodia’s garment sector, which says that human rights abuses, including forced overtime and child labor, remain rife in the country’s factories.
According to figures from the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, in 2014 the country exported a total of $4.52 billion worth of garments and textiles, $1.59 billion of which was destined for the U.S.