The United States has moved to sanction Cambodia for allowing the Chinese military into its country just some moments after kicking out the U.S military.
As the geostrategic and political rivalry between U.S. and China intensifies, we are likely to see the increasingly U.S. resort to using its strategic weapons of human rights abuse accusations to impose sanctions on any country that opposes its agender globally.
Cambodia has just become another victim of U.S – China rivalry joining a long list of other countries which have faced U.S. sanctions and are considered by the U.S. to be very close to China and unfriendly to its ambitions globally.
The U.S. accused Cambodia’s officials of systemic corruption, transnational organized crimes and human rights abuses to impose sanctions that target Chau Phirun who is the Director-general of defence ministry’s material and technical services department and Tea Vinh, the commander of the Royal Cambodian Navy and brother of Cambodian defence minister Tea Banh.
The U.S. Treasury Department alleged that in 2020 and 2021, the only years after Cambodia destroyed U.S funded navy structure in Cambodia, Chau conspired with Tea and other Cambodian officials to inflate costs of the Ream Naval Base construction project and then planned to use the funds for their own benefit.
After the destruction of the Ream Naval Base structure which was funded by the U.S. to clear away for Naval base expansion by Cambodia with the help of the Chinese, the U.S. become angry and from then it has been rising human rights abuses and systemic corruption in Cambodia threatening the country with sanctions if it allowed China to build a naval base on its soil.
U.S. State Department says that Chau and Tea were involved in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law and the Cambodian public’s faith in the government institutions and Public processes, including by using their political influence and official power for personal benefit.
After the sanctions were announced, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wing Wenbin defended what he called “equal and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Cambodia” on the project and accused the U.S. of interfering in Cambodia’s affairs by levying sanctions.
“China has always opposed unilateral sanctions and the so-called long-arm jurisdiction of U.S as well as its gross interference in other countries internal affairs”, Wang Wenbin said during a daily press briefing in Beijing.
U.S sanctions prevent Chau and Tea’s immediate family members from entering the U.S and freezing any assets in the U.S.that they hold although it’s unknown if the sanctioned individuals and their families have any business dealings or assets in the U.S.
U.S. Treasury Department, State Department, and Commerce Department issued a business advisory cautioning U.S. firms to be mindful of interactions with entities involved in corrupt business practices, criminal activities, and human rights abuses in addition to sanctions.
Two primary target areas of risk were identified; illegal financial activities in the financial, real estate, casino, and infrastructure sectors, and entities involved in trafficking of humans, wildlife, and narcotics and related risks in some areas of the manufacturing and timber sectors.
The above-mentioned targeted risk areas indicate the U.S.intention of bringing the whole Cambodian economy down to its knees as it prevents people whether Americans or not from investing or participating in the Cambodian economy and manufacturing sectors due to fears of being sanctioned by the U.S.
The relationship between the U.S and Cambodian prime minister who has ruled the country for 36 years has been deteriorating since the Cambodian government decided to remain very close to China and destroy U.S. funded naval base structure in a strategic place that overlooks South China sea where disputes between U.S and China had been growing of recent.
The acquiring of a naval base in Cambodia by the Chinese military if reports are true will enhance China’s ability to monitor and control the South China Sea and surrounding areas in southeast Asia since the base faces the Gulf of Thailand which lies adjacent to the South China Sea.
The construction of facilities at Ream naval base by the Chinese and the possibilities that China may in future ask basing rights the reports denied by China and Cambodia have not only worried Washington but also increased tensions between Cambodia and the U.S.
U.S has been seeking clarification about the demolition of two U.S funded buildings at Ream without notification or explanation and has observed that a Chinese military base in Cambodia would undermine its sovereignty, threaten regional security and negatively impact U.S.-Cambodia relations.