Key US Senator Blames Hun Sen for Riots

A prominent US senator on Friday denounced the CPP-led government and blamed Prime Minister Hun Sen for orchestrating the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots that left many Thai businesses in sham­bles and severely damaged Thai-Cambodian relations.

US Senator Mitch McConnell, the second-highest-ranking senator of the ruling Republican Party and a longtime critic of Hun Sen’s ad­min­istration, said in a statement that the US Congress would con­tinue its aid restrictions through 2003 because of Cambo­dia’s poor handling of the riots and the general suppression of Cambodia’s vocal opposition to Hun Sen.

“Over the past few weeks, the world has watched the situation in Cambodia go from bad to worse,” McConnell stated. He alleged that Hun Sen was behind the riots and criticized “the continuing crackdown on the democratic opposition, the purges of rivals within his own party, and the flawed voter registration process.”

McConnell continued: “Cam­bo­dia’s future rests with those leaders committed to dem­o­cracy and the rule of law. Unfor­tunately, this does not include any of the shady cast of characters now in office. They are part of Cambodia’s problems and not part of its solutions.”

The US Congress last week also upheld previous restrictions on direct aid to Cambodia. The US will continue to give direct aid to the government, with most of it going to the Ministry of Health to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and toward efforts by the Ministry of Wo­men’s Affairs to combat hu­man trafficking.

In 2002, the US gave about $10 million in direct aid to the Health and Women’s Affairs ministries and another $20 million in aid that is channeled through NGOs.

Om Yentieng, an adviser to Hun Sen, said Sunday that Cam­bo­dia needs more assistance and declined to comment directly on McConnell’s harsh rebuke of the government.

“We want to be friends with everyone,” Om Yentieng said. “We need to build our country.”



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