As US criticises, Cambodia veers closer to ‘ironclad brother’ China

Sanctions against Cambodian officials and warnings not to invest in the country are more likely to be met with intransigence than policy changes, observers say.

A day after Cambodia marked 68 years of independence last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government was hit with a brace of disapproving announcements from Washington that analysts say signal future tensions in the bilateral relationship and risk pushing Phnom Penh further into “China’s corner”.

The first press release on November 10 broadcast new US sanctions against Cambodian navy chief Admiral Tea Vinh and defence ministry equipment tsar General Chau Phirun for allegedly conspiring to profit from the construction and upgrade of a China-linked naval base, which has been a source of tension between Washington and Beijing amid claims it could host Chinese troops.

The second, from the US State Department, cautioned American businesses against investing in Cambodia, citing endemic corruption and the risk of possible involvement with entities involved in human rights abuses, trafficking of people and wildlife, and drugs.

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