WASHINGTON – The United States Department of State announced on Thursday it would be expanding visa restrictions against Cambodians linked to recent controversial elections in the country.
The US criticized the Cambodian government for undemocratic actions taken in the run up to the July elections, including disbanding the opposition and a severe crackdown on dissidence.
“The expanded entry restrictions may apply to individuals both within and outside the Cambodian Government who are responsible for the most notable anti-democratic actions taken in the run-up to the flawed July 29th election,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a press briefing.
The spokesperson said the decision follows an announcement by the State Department on Dec. 6 that it would restrict the entry of those involved in anti-democratic actions in Cambodia, including the banning of the main opposition party, led by Kem Sokha.
The elections have left the ruling Cambodian People’s Party unopposed in the country’s parliament, which makes Cambodia virtually a one-party state, with Prime Minister Hun Sen continuing to hold the post he has occupied since 1985.
The Supreme Court in November 2017 had declared the Cambodia National Rescue Party illegal and banned it from contesting the elections, which led the opposition party to call for a boycott of the elections.
Prior to the banning of the CNRP, its leader, Kem Sokha, had been arrested on charges of treason amid a severe crackdown on independent media and expulsion of several nonprofits from the country.
In February, the US had suspended part of its financial and military aid to Cambodia owing to “setbacks” in democracy in the country.
“We reiterate our call for the Cambodian Government to take tangible actions to promote national reconciliation by allowing independent media and civil society organizations to fulfill their vital roles unhindered and immediately release Kem Sokha and other political prisoners and ending the ban on political opposition,” Nauert had said at the press briefing.