US expats in Cambodia concerned over anti US threats

Published:  26 Sep at 6 PM
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American expatriates living and working in Cambodia are growing more concerned about the seemingly anti-US stance of the ruling military government.

After the recent closure of independent English language media outlets and radio stations and the arrest of the country’s opposition leader, Phnom Penh officials have focused their rhetoric on the USA. Government critics and media professionals are increasingly concerned about the reasons behind the rising antipathy, especially after Friday’s announcement that senior military officers had pledged to eliminate all foreigners with intent to harm the country.

The officers’ comments were published the same day as Cambodian PM Hun Sen announced the identification of two Americans alleged to be spies plotting to overthrow his government. In the same speech, he ordered full investigations into all US expat citizens suspected of being spies and suggested the US Peace Corps should leave Cambodia Just last week he suspended a compassionately-based programme involved in identifying and repatriating the bodies of US solduiers killed during the war in Vietnam.

As a result of the speech, two major military commanders have vowed to carry out Hun Sen’s orders, pledging their ‘determination to smash all persons involved in fomenting revolution’. A defence ministry spokesman defended the pair’s right to make threats against foreigners, adding the ministry could not offer unconditional guarantees on the safety of foreign expats.

Human Rights Watch’s Asian director told the media definitions of acts against the government are now being interpreted broadly, based on vague espionage laws. He believes the moves signal a disturbing new trend against foreign residents in general, a fear shared by expats either working or retiring in the country.

Following the latest military coup in Thailand and the resulting toughening up of visa rules and other regulations, an increasing number of expatriates have been leaving for Cambodia. It’s believed the majority are retirees looking for a more stable, less stressful lifestyle with easier immigration laws as well as less hassle with local immigration offices. It’s also thought that not all Cambodia’s military officials agree with Hun Sen’s position, but must agree to do so for their own sakes.
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