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Cambodia Dismayed Over US Sanctions    12/10 06:17

   PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- The Cambodian government expressed "strong 
dismay" Tuesday over a U.S. Treasury decision to sanction two businessmen 
suspected of corruption and illegal logging. 

   A Foreign Ministry statement said the sanctions were based on groundless 

   "The Executive Order is an ambush against the ongoing efforts to restore 
trust and confidence between Cambodia and the United States," the statement 

   It defended both of the influential businessmen and former officials 
targeted by the sanctions, which freeze their U.S.-based assets and ban doing 
business with them. 

   The ministry "expressed strong dismay over the arbitrary designation" of the 
Cambodian citizens. It said Kim had made a "great contribution" to the 
country's peace, stability and social order. Pheap has "played an active role 
in supporting Cambodia's socio-economic development," it said. 

   The U.S. Treasury Department said it had designated Try Pheap and 11 
companies owned or by controlled by him for sanctions for alleged graft and 
illegal logging. The companies engage in various businesses including tourism, 
real estate development and energy. 

   It said Pheap, who has been an advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, has built 
up a vast illegal logging network that purchases protection from government 
officials and the military and export lumber to Vietnam, China, Russia and 
European countries. 

   Pheap has responded to past corruption allegations in Facebook postings 
saying his businesses are all legal and abide by the law. 

   The Treasury Department also designated former Gen. Kun Kim, three of his 
relatives and their family businesses for sanctions for allegedly engaging in 
corruption and illegal extraction of natural resources. 

   Kim is a longtime associate and supporter of Hun Sen and now is the senior 
minister for veterans' affairs. The businesses and people cited in the 
announcement also are involved in rubber plantations and financial and security 

   Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said the sanctions, announced Monday on 
International Corruption Day, targeted people and entities based in Latvia, 
Serbia, Venezuela, Hong Kong and Cambodia suspected of illicit activities that 
"undermine the foundations of stable, secure and functioning societies."

   The human rights group Global Witness welcomed the Treasury Department's 
announcement, saying both Pheap and Kim are suspected of serious human rights 
and environmental abuses. 

   "As Hun Sen's supporters have accumulated more and more wealth and impunity, 
their incentive to help him cling to power has increased," Patrick Alley, 
director of Global Witness, said in a statement. 

   "Accountability for those sustaining the corrupt dictatorship that is 
oppressing Cambodians on a daily basis is long overdue," he said. 

   Hun Sen has been prime minister since 1985. Critics say he has kept his hold 
on power by rewarding cronies and family members and allowing them to plunder 
the country's forests and farmlands. 

   The Treasury statement cites a Chinese resort development project in Koh 
Kong, on the scenic southern coast, that involved land seizures carried out by 
armed soldiers. 

   In late 2017, Cambodia's Supreme Court ordered the main opposition party 
dissolved on the unsupported pretext that it conspired with the United States 
to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen's government. That move was seen as a 
government effort to ensure his ruling Cambodian People's Party won a July 2018 
general election. It ended up sweeping all 125 National Assembly seats. 

   Because they considered the elections neither free nor fair, some Western 
nations applied diplomatic sanctions against Hun Sen's government.

   The European Union is considering withdrawing preferential tariff privileges 
from Cambodia. That would be a blow to its economy, which is powered by garment 


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