The U.S. Tuesday urged Cambodia to allow full participation in the general elections next year and also free the 13 women being imprisoned for protesting a property development.
In her discussions with Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Washington Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted the importance of a free, fair, and transparent election in 2013 and with appropriate participation across the political spectrum, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for almost thirty years, has been accused of quashing dissent.
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been living in Paris in a self-imposed exile after he was convicted in a series of charges that his supporters say are politically motivated.
Clinton, however, maintained that the issue of whether Rainsy should be allowed to participate in the election or not was for the Cambodians to decide.
Clinton said that the U.S. was concerned about the 13 women who were jailed for protesting against the eviction of tens of thousands of residents from their homes in the capital Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak Lake district. The residential area was being planned to be developed into a luxury residential and shopping center.
The women were imprisoned on charges of defying authority and trespassing on the development site.
The Secretary did express our concern over the recent protests regarding land rights issues and urged Cambodia to allow Boeung Kak Lake detainees full access to due process. And she did note that their release would be a sign of support for freedom of expression, Nuland was quoted as saying by Radio Free Asia.
Cambodian Secretary of State Kao Kim Hourn, however, rejected claims that the growing land grab issues were due to unfair government policies.
The government of Cambodia does not have a policy of land-grabbing, he said. Those so-called 'forced evictions' are of people occupying state land illegally, he said, adding that such evictions occurred in any society with state land.
It's a crime, in fact, to occupy state land, he said.
An estimated 30,000 people are evicted from their homes every year in Cambodia to make room for real estate developments, mining or agricultural projects.
Cambodia reached a set of deals with its ally China Tuesday according to which Beijing will provide funds to expand a key highway, build a dam in the Battambang province and a health clinic in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia and China have also agreed to expand trade and have more direct flights to the tourism-driven Siem Reap province.
Cambodia's opposition legislator Son Chhay said Beijing was using its increased influence over Cambodia to serve its own political interests, as reported by RFA.
China is using Cambodia for its political gains. Cambodia is losing its neutrality. Cambodia should be careful about natural resources exploitation which makes Cambodia become a vulnerable country, Son Chhay said.