US Congressman Richard Gephardt will visit Cambodia early next month on what an embassy official described Tuesday as a “familiarization tour,” though the Khmer Rouge trial and resumption of direct aid are expected to be discussed.
Gephardt will lead a delegation of 10 congressmen first to Vietnam and then to Cambodia, where they will start a two-day visit to Angkor Wat Jan 13 before traveling to Phnom Penh to meet Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihanouk.
The visit closely follows a brief stay by US Senator John Kerry, who passed through Phnom Penh in late November to nudge along the Khmer Rouge trial process, which appeared to have stalled again on its way to National Assembly debate.
Though the pending trial will “be on the agenda,” the embassy official said Gephardt’s visit is not related to any specific issue.
Also likely to be discussed is resumption of direct aid from the US to Cambodia. The aid was cut in 1997, after Hun Sen wrested power from his then co-prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh during several days of street fighting.
Following his visit, Kerry suggested that direct aid could be restored to the country with the successful passage and implementation of the Khmer Rouge trial law, which hopes to bring to justice at least two of the former leaders of the ultra-Maoist regime that left an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians dead in the late 1970s.
Gephardt is the US House of Representatives minority leader.