After Attack on Westerners, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Softens Tone

Cambodia’s foreign minister has launched a scathing attack on Western democracies, labeling them hypocritical and interested in promoting human rights and democracy only when it’s in their own interest.

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon told the U.N. General Assembly last week that human rights and democracy issues were raised only “when the specific interests of certain major powers are at stake.”

“Otherwise, it is sheer silence, and often a conspiracy of silence,” he added.

The comments came amid a surge in anti-American rhetoric from the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, which has jailed the leader of the country’s opposition on allegations he conspired with the United states to unseat the long-term premier.

‘One-sided’ presentation

In an exclusive interview with VOA Cambodia, Sokhon softened his tone, saying Cambodia wants to “normalize relations” with the United States, “at least back to the original level.”

But Sokhon lashed out at the international media’s portrayal of the crackdown on dissent in Cambodia.

He told VOA, following the General Assembly meeting, that the international media had given a “one-sided” presentation of recent events in Cambodia.

He said that the closures of the National Democratic Institute in Cambodia, the American-owned Cambodia Daily newspaper and numerous radio stations broadcasting U.S.-funded radio programs were “being done in accordance with the law.”

The government has come under heavy criticism from Washington and American allies, while China has lent Phnom Penh explicit support for its crackdown on dissent.

As Sokhon was giving his speech at the General Assembly last week, Cambodian-American protesters gathered at the U.N. headquarters to oppose the government line.

Steven Reach, a New York City resident, said he was unhappy with the “unreasonable” treason charges against Kem Sokha, the Cambodia National Rescue Party leader. He added that he hoped the U.N. could exert some influence over Hun Sen’s government.

Annie Van, a…

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