Representatives from the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations on Friday met with senior leaders from the opposition CNRP to discuss the political situation in Cambodia since last year’s disputed national election.
In the hourlong meeting at CNRP headquarters, which U.S. delegate Paul Grove declined to comment on, CNRP President Sam Rainsy said the two sides discussed the protracted fallout and that he had told Mr. Grove about recent bans on the freedom of assembly.
“He came, because he wanted to monitor the situation in Cambodia,” Mr. Rainsy said. ‘He wants to know what steps are being taken toward resolution, and we explained this to him.”
Mr. Rainsy said Mr. Grove did not bring up the subject of budgets for aid to Cambodia, but that “their budget law has a condition that U.S. President Barack Obama will not allow funding [to Cambodia], especially the military, to the Hun Sen government, if it has not properly investigated the national election, ballot fraud and irregularities.”
In August, Cambodia postponed U.S.-backed military assistance programs immediately after the election in a move that analysts said would strain relations, but which officials denied was linked to calls from U.S. lawmakers for military aid to be cut.
Then, in October, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham filed a resolution with the foreign relations committee, calling for the U.S. to suspend military assistance until an electoral investigation is carried out.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the delegation needed to take a more balanced approach and that senators from other countries have no right to tell Cambodians how to handle their elections.
“They have come to Cambodia, but why have they only met with the opposition party and not the government?” he said.
“Sam Rainsy just wants power, so he has only been talking about that.”
The appropriations committee operates a separate subcommittee on foreign operations, which Mr. Grove has represented in previous trips to Cambodia.
In an email, U.S. Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh said the delegation “is in Cambodia for meetings with representatives from the government, the opposition, and civil society and to visit U.S.-funded development projects.”
Earlier this week, officials from the CPP and CNRP agreed in principle to the establishment of a joint body that would look into electoral reform.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)
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