US can criticise Cambodia all it wants, but don’t expect Phnom Penh’s help

As Cambodia is increasingly pulled into China’s orbit, the United States should refrain from punishing Phnom Penh while simultaneously expecting it to help.

This is especially true when Washington needs Cambodia’s cooperation – as it chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2022 – to counter Chinese influence in the region.

Last week, Washington imposed an arms embargo on Cambodia, citing concerns about human rights, corruption and China’s growing influence in the country. It said the move was aimed at restricting access to dual-use items and “defence articles and defence services” by Cambodia’s military and intelligence agencies.

In response, Cambodian leader Hun Sen ordered the military to put all such weapons and military equipment into storage or “simply smash them”. US weapons were used by “losers of the war in Afghanistan”, the strongman said in a mocking Facebook post.

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