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Cambodia ruling party calls US travel sanctions targeting officials‘useless’

Western governments have decried last month’s election in Cambodia in which the ruling party won all 125 seats. The US State Department announced an expansion of visa restrictions to include Cambodians responsible for a crackdown on dissent in the run-up to the “flawed” vote.

world Updated: Aug 16, 2018 15:05 IST
AFP, Phnom Penh
cambodia,cambodia elections,Cambodian People's Party
Cambodia's Prime Minister and President of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany show their stained fingers at a polling station during a general election in Takhmao, Kandal province, Cambodia July 29, 2018. camo(REUTERS)

US travel sanctions targeting Cambodian officials are “useless”, a ruling party spokesman said on Thursday, as the kingdom shrugs off international criticism of a one-sided election win.

The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by strongman Hun Sen won all 125 seats in parliament during last month’s poll.

The main opposition did not contest the vote after a court dissolved the party, clearing the way for a landslide victory for the CPP.

Western governments have decried the election and the US State Department yesterday announced an expansion of visa restrictions to include Cambodians responsible for a crackdown on dissent in the run-up to the “flawed” vote.

But a spokesman for the CPP called the move “useless”.

“The restrictions or so-called sanctions on Cambodia will not be effective,” Sok Eysan said. “For example, if I don’t want to go to that country, how can they block my visa?”

Washington did not name the officials targeted by the expanded list but it has already hit the chief of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit with financial sanctions in June.

The CPP is hailing an 83 percent turnout as a sign of a overwhelming popular support.

But critics say the election was a sham and highlight the 600,000 spoiled ballots as a sign of serious disquiet while others were intimidated into casting ballots.

Relations have soured between the US and Cambodia in recent years. Hun Sen, who has been in power for 33 years, has instead turned to China for cash and loans to make good on development promises.

The 66-year-old accused the opposition last year of conspiring with the US in a plot to overthrow the government, and police arrested opposition leader Kem Sokha on treason charges.

First Published: Aug 16, 2018 15:03 IST