While the US State Department urges an investigation into human rights violations in Cambodia, its representatives say it does not support a controversial congressional resolution condemning Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“US policy does not support the establishment of a tribunal for the purpose of investigating allegations of human rights violations and other crimes focused on only a single individual,” the US Embassy said in a statement referring to a resolution sponsored by US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
The statement further stressed that the resolution, “like the numerous other resolutions passed by the House and Senate, does not have the force of law and is not binding on” the administration of US President Bill Clinton.
In this case, it merely reflects an opinion, the statement emphasized.
The statement clarifies the significance of the resolution, which has created political tension here.
On Sunday, Rasmei Kampuchea (Light of Cambodia), a leading Khmer-language daily, quoted Information Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith as saying that security of Americans couldn’t be guaranteed if the resolution passed the full House of Representatives. US Ambassador Kenneth Quinn rebuked Khieu Kanharith for the statement.
Thursday, Rasmei Kampuchea again quoted an unnamed “top government official” as saying that if the US Congress supports Rohrabacher’s resolution, there will be a “bad reaction from the majority of Cambodian people.”
Another Khmer-language paper, Arayathor (Civilization), wrote this week that the US is nourishing the opposition and “poking its hand deeply into the intestine, heart and liver of Cambodia.” It suggested pro-government demonstrations might drive the embassy from Cambodia.
Prak Sokhonn, an adviser to Hun Sen, said Thursday: “Don’t believe what you read in the newspapers.”
Khieu Kanharith on Thursday seemed gratified by the US Embassy statement, reading over the telephone the section that downplayed the significance of the Rohrabacher resolution.
As far as investigating human-rights violations, he said that the Cambodia government is concerned about human rights, too, but has had to focus on the election and forming a government.
Khieu Kanharith laughed when asked about the recent articles in certain Khmer-language newspapers that have been critical of US actions.
“Nobody blames the US,” he said, dispelling the articles and the notion there is tension between the two countries.
Cambodian genocide experts have said that the portion of Rohrabacher’s resolution implicating Hun Sen in war crimes lacks any basis in fact or law.
Analysts and diplomats say that a far more accurate indicator of US policy toward Cambodia are the statements being made by the State Department itself.
Rohrabacher represents an area of the US that has one of the highest concentration of Cambodian-Americans.
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