Cambodia’s leader Hun Sen has offered to renew friendship with the United States after receiving a letter from President Trump. A turnaround in relations with the country he once accused of conspiring to overthrow him.
Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked President Trump for assurances that Washington was not seeking “regime change” in Cambodia. Both countries foreign affairs teams should now work “to restore trust and confidence. And also renew the bond of friendship between our two countries, he said.
Cambodia, one of China’s closest allies in Asia, turned its back on the United States and the European Union (EU) over their criticism of political repression.
Less than four months ago, a Cambodian official said US diplomats should “pack up and leave.” This came after a US embassy statement that the 2018 election did not reflect the will of the people. Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) won all 125 parliamentary seats. The win came after Cambodia’s Supreme Court disbanded the main opposition party.
Opposition Party Accused of Plotting Take Over in Cambodia
The opposition Party was accused of plotting to take power with US help, and its leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested on treason charges.
Kem Sokha was released from house arrest earlier this month, though the treason charges remain. Surprisingly his release came as the EU moved closer to cutting off preferential trade status over human rights.
Hun Sen’s letter followed one from President Trump seeking to improve ties between both countries. President Trump also urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to put Cambodia back on a democratic path.
The Cambodian leader, in power for more than three decades, acknowledged tumultuous periods in US relations.
“However, I am of the view that we should not become hostage of a few dark chapters in our history,” he wrote. “There are so many other beautiful chapters that are worth nourishing for the greater good of both our countries and people.” Hun Sen referred to US support for nation building after decades of civil war that ended in the 1990s and “generous market access”.
“I am indeed thankful and truly appreciate these magnanimous gestures,” the letter read.