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US Positioned to Place Aid Conditions on Cambodia

FILE - Meas Muth, right, sits next to a Buddhist monk at Anlong Veng district in Oddar Mean Chey province, Cambodia, July 23, 2006. Meas Muth was implicated in the 1975 Mayaguez incident in which at least 38 U.S. servicemen died.

The United States is poised to through on criticism of the recent crackdown on Cambodian opposition and civil society by linking its multimillion-dollar aid package for 2017 to improvements in human rights.

The next fiscal year’s assistance package to Cambodia will amount to about $77.8 million, according to an appropriations bill approved last month. It will fund projects aimed at improving health care, de-mining and the Khmer Rouge tribunal, among other issues.

Globally, the bill allocates $52 billion for projects and operations, including strengthening foreign relations, conducting counterterrorism operations, improving health and promoting democracy.

The bill specifies that aid to Cambodia will be distributed only if Phnom Penh halts "violence and harassment against civil society in Cambodia, including political opposition.”

Additionally, the $1.5 million allotted to continuing the work of the Khmer Rouge tribunal will be issued only in support of Case 003, which Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed will not take place.

Hun Sen has repeatedly warned that pursuing more Khmer Rouge officials — including the regime’s navy commander, Meas Muth, who was implicated in the 1975 Mayaguez incident in which at least 38 U.S. servicemen died — would lead to “civil war.” Meas Muth was one of two suspects named in Case 003.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer service.