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US reminded of ‘moral debt’ by Cambodia

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Mon, April 5, 2021

Merge photo of secretary of state Antony J Blinken (L), US Department of State, and Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn. Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain & Ministry of Foreign Affairs

PHNOM PENH – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that the United States should not lose sight of the “enormous moral debt” that it owes to the Kingdom and its innocent people over the bombardment of Cambodia in the 1970s.

The reaction was made in response to a recent US Department of State critical report on the human rights situation in Cambodia.

In its statement, the ministry said without any clear mandate given by the United Nations, the US always assumes a domineering role in unilaterally and arbitrarily criticising the human rights situation of other countries.

It said the report “lacks objectivity” and suffers from serious shortcomings in terms of the accuracy of its data and information.

“Any institution of the US wishing to assess Cambodia shall not lose sight of the enormous moral debt that the former owes to the Kingdom and its innocent people after enduring the indiscriminate aerial bombings during the 1970s,” the ministry said.

The US Embassy spokesperson said yesterday that the human rights reports “stands on its own and we have nothing to add today”.

The attacks came early in 1969 when US B-52 bombers were first diverted from their targets in South Vietnam to attack suspected communist base camps and supply areas in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

This mission and subsequent B-52 strikes inside Cambodia became known as the “Menu” bombings. A total of 3,630 flights over Cambodia dropped 110,000 tonnes of bombs during a 14-month period up to April 1970.

Additionally, the ministry said the US does not live up to the principle that leadership in human rights must begin at home, saying the US annual report does not cover its own human rights records, which is an obvious “self-denial of its human rights abuses”.

“The report did not take an even-handed approach to its assessment, by inflating certain rights over the others, rejecting national particularities and across-the-board gains of the Kingdom in wide-ranging domains of human rights,” the ministry said.

It added that the content and tone of the report also “varied depending” upon how close or strategic a country is to the US.

“The practise of selectivity and the weaponisation of human rights has been an unfortunate trend that needs to be guarded against and curtailed if we are to promote and protect human rights as a global public good,” it added.

The US State Department on March 30 released “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” which reviewed human rights abuses in many countries, including Cambodia, last year.

The report claimed significant human rights issues including: “torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; arbitrary detention by the government; political prisoners and detainees.”

It noted the absence of judicial independence; arbitrary interference in the private lives of citizens, including pervasive electronic media surveillance; serious restrictions on free expression, the press and the internet, among others.

It claimed the government continued to restrict freedom of association, targeting specific groups it believed could be involved in political dissent.

However, the ministry reaffirmed the Kingdom’s unwavering commitment to pursuing a liberal multi-party democracy and upholding the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms in conformity with the Constitution of Cambodia.

Cambodia News Home

SOURCE – Khmer Times, Cambodia Mon, April 5, 2021

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