The United States government yesterday imposed an arms embargo on Cambodia, citing long-standing concerns about human rights, corruption, and China’s growing influence in the country. According to a statement from the Commerce Department, the move will “restrict” access to “dual-use items,” “less-sensitive military items,” and “defense articles and defense services” by Cambodia’s military and intelligence agencies.
“The United States remains fully committed to Cambodia’s independence and the sovereignty of its people,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in the statement. “We urge the Cambodian government to make meaningful progress in addressing corruption and human rights abuses, and to work to reduce the influence of the PRC military in Cambodia, which threatens regional and global security.”
This doesn’t mean a lot – the U.S. is not currently a supplier of arms to Cambodia – but it marks the latest in long list of measures designed to sanction Phnom Penh over its political repression and increasingly close relationship with China. In particular, Washington has become alarmed by the Chinese-funded refurbishment of the Ream Naval Base on Cambodia’s south coast, which it fears will pave the way for a permanent Chinese military presence on Cambodian soil. The Cambodian government denies the claim.