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US pauses some aid, imposes visa bans after ‘neither free nor fair’ Cambodia election

US pauses some aid, imposes visa bans after ‘neither free nor fair’ Cambodia election
epa10763551 Cambodian National Election Committee officials empty a ballot box to prepare the counting of the votes at a polling station in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 23 July 2023. Cambodia's seventh national assembly elections were held on 23 July 2023. EPA-EFE/KITH SEREY

WASHINGTON, July 23 (Reuters) - The United States said it was pausing some foreign assistance programs in Cambodia and imposing visa bans on individuals it says undermined democracy after the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) declared a landslide victory in elections on Sunday.

By Simon Lewis

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement that Washington was “troubled” that the elections, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP faced no viable opponent were “neither free nor fair.”

“Ahead of the elections, Cambodian authorities engaged in a pattern of threats and harassment against the political opposition, media, and civil society that undermined the spirit of the country’s constitution and Cambodia’s international obligations,” Miller said.

“In response, the United States has taken steps to impose visa restrictions on individuals who undermined democracy and implemented a pause of certain foreign assistance programs,” he added.

Miller called on Cambodian authorities to restore genuine multi-party democracy, end politically motivated trials and reverse convictions of government critics, and allow independent media to operate without interference in order to “improve the country’s international standing.”

Self-styled strongman Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 38 years, had brushed off Western concern about the election’s credibility, determined to prevent any obstacle in his carefully calibrated transition to his anointed successor and eldest son, Hun Manet.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Michael Perry)

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