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Cambodia Dismisses US Sanctions Threat for Trafficking Offenses

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Wednesday dismissed threats by the State Department to impose sanctions on Cambodia for failing to take measures to end the trafficking of sex slaves. The prime minister said the U.S. was guilty of greater crimes, such as the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

A State Department report last week named Cambodia as one of 14 countries that failed to comply with "minimum standards" to eliminate human trafficking. The country could now face economic sanctions if it does not bolster efforts to prosecute traffickers, and public officials, involved in trafficking in the next three months.

Speaking Wednesday, Cambodia's prime minister, Hun Sen, seemed unfazed by the State Department criticism or threat of sanctions.

He said there is nothing surprising about the report, as the United States often passes judgments about his country. If the U.S. speaks good or bad of Cambodia, he said, nothing changes.

Hun Sen went on to add the United States had committed worse deeds than Cambodia, blaming it for crippling the country during the Vietnam War.

Communist North Vietnam used the trails of eastern Cambodia to re-enforce its troops in South Vietnam, and U.S. planes heavily bombed the trails to prevent the re-enforcements from getting through.

The prime minister said many Cambodians continue to suffer from land mines that explode years after the war ended.

Other top officials in Cambodia have blamed a lack of resources for its inability to curb trafficking. But the State Department and anti-trafficking groups in Cambodia say the government is part of the problem.

The report mentions an incident last year when a group of armed men seized women and girls from a safe house for trafficking victims. The government arrested those responsible for the raid, but then let them go.

If the United States does carry out its threat to impose sanctions, these could include the withholding of non-humanitarian assistance and non-trade related assistance to Cambodia.