Cambodia Jails US Agents as US-China Tensions Rise – Brian Berletic 3/6/23


The US government, Western media, and supposed “human rights” organizations are condemning Cambodia for recently sentencing Kem Sokha, the former leader of the opposition party “Cambodia National Rescue Party” (CNRP), to 27 years in prison. While the arguments being made publicly revolve superficially around upholding “human rights” and “democracy,” the actual reason for the West’s condemnation is Kem Sokha’s role as a long-time US government proxy Washington invested heavily in over many years.

The Guardian in its article, “US condemns ‘fabricated’ case as Cambodian opposition leader is jailed for 27 years,” would report:

The former leader of the dissolved opposition party the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was arrested in 2017 and accused of conspiring with the US to oust Cambodia’s authoritarian leader, Hun Sen, who has ruled for almost four decades. 

US ambassador W Patrick Murphy said the allegations, which Kem Sokha denied, were “fabricated conspiracy theories”.

The Guardian also reported:

Judge Koy Sao told the court in Phnom Penh on Friday: “Kem Sokha … is sentenced to 27 years in prison on the charge of collusion with foreigners committed in Cambodia and other places.” Kem Sokha, who has now been placed under house arrest, was also banned from running for office and from voting in elections.

While the Guardian, other Western media outlets, as well as “human rights” organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are condemning the charges as “fabricated,” no mention is made of the actual evidence presented by Cambodia itself which includes a video where Kem Sokha himself openly admits to planning a Serbia-style color revolution entirely sponsored by the US government.

Kem Sokha’s Admitted Collusion with US-Sponsored Color Revolution 

The Phnom Penh Post in 2017 while still an enthusiastically pro-Western media outlet, would report in its article, “Sokha video producer closes Phnom Penh office in fear,” that:

Sokha says he has visited the US at the government’s request every year since 1993 to learn about the “democratisation process” and that “they decided” he should step aside from politics to create change in Cambodia. 

“They said if we want to change the leadership, we cannot fight the top. Before changing the top level, we need to uproot the lower one. We need to change the lower level first. It is a political strategy in a democratic country,” he said. 

“And, the USA that has assisted me, they asked me to take the model from Yugoslavia, Serbia, where they can change the dictator [Slobodan] Milosevic,” he continues, referring to the former Serbian and Yugoslavian leader who resigned amid popular protests following disputed elections, and died while on trial for war crimes. 

“You know Milosevic had a huge number of tanks. But they changed things by using this strategy, and they take this experience for me to implement in Cambodia. But no one knew about this.”

The article also reported:

“I do not do anything at my own will. There experts, professors at universities in Washington, DC, Montreal, Canada, hired by the Americans in order to advise me on the strategy to change the dictator leader in Cambodia.”

It should be noted that the author of the article, Erin Handley, currently works for Australian state media, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and the article itself attempted to excuse Kem Sokha’s collusion with the US government as still somehow congruent with legitimate democratic processes.

Based on Kem Sokha’s own words, the Cambodian opposition leader was clearly engaged in what any nation around the world would define as treason and foreign-sponsored sedition.

Kem Sokha’s reference to Serbia, and the nature of regime change there being US-sponsored, is a fact admitted by even the Western media including in a 2000 article by the New York Times titled, “Who Really Brought Down Milosevic?,” which admits:

The United States Agency for International Development says that $25 million was appropriated just this year. Several hundred thousand dollars were given directly to Otpor for ”demonstration-support material, like T-shirts and stickers,” says Donald L. Pressley, the assistant administrator. Otpor leaders intimate they also received a lot of covert aid — a subject on which there is no comment in Washington.

At the International Republican Institute, another nongovernmental Washington group financed partly by A.I.D., an official named Daniel Calingaert says he met Otpor leaders ”7 to 10 times” in Hungary and Montenegro, beginning in October 1999. Some of the $1.8 million the institute spent in Serbia in the last year was ”provided direct to Otpor,” he says. By this fall, Otpor was no ramshackle students’ group; it was a well-oiled movement backed by several million dollars from the United States.

But other American help was as important as money. Calingaert’s organization arranged for a seminar at the luxurious Budapest Hilton from March 31 to April 3. There a retired United States Army colonel, Robert Helvey, instructed more than 20 Otpor leaders in techniques of nonviolent resistance. This session appears to have been significant. It also suggests a link between the American-influenced opposition base in Budapest and the events in Vladicin Han.

It should be pointed out that in addition to Kem Sokha’s own admissions, publicly available documentation reveals that many supposedly “nongovernmental organizations” (NGOs) aiding the Cambodian opposition are funded by the US government through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) (as was the case in Serbia) as well as a myriad of other Western governments and Western corporation-funded foundations.

This includes “Licadho” which describes itself as a “Cambodian human rights organization.” Listed as donors on its own website are the embassies of Australia, Belgium, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, as well as the US government through USAID. Licadho also lists “Amnesty International” as a donor. Amnesty International is currently attempting to cover up foreign interference in Cambodia and Kem Sokha’s leading role in executing it while the organization itself is instrumental in this foreign interference.

There is also the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) whose website lists its donors which include, “the International Republican Institute (IRI), Delegation of European Union in Cambodia, British Embassy, Australian Embassy, Deusche Welle Academie, Transparency International, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), IFEX International, Reporters Without Borders, Action Aid Cambodia, Freedom House, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Cambodia Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Canada Fund.”

It should be noted that IRI and Freedom House are both subsidiaries of the US government-funded NED.

Both Licadho and CCIM are regularly cited across Western media to buttress Washington’s narratives regarding Cambodia and to help support the US-sponsored opposition, primarily Kem Sokha and the CNRP.

Fake Rights Groups Cover Up US Meddling in Cambodia 

The aforementioned Guardian article cites both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in an effort to depict Cambodia’s imprisonment of Kem Sokha as unjustified and the charges as “fabricated.”

Of Amnesty International, the article claims:

Amnesty International described the charges as “fabricated”, adding that the Cambodian justice system had “once again shown its jaw-dropping lack of independence”, while Human Rights Watch said Kem Sokha should be “immediately and unconditionally” released.

Regarding Human Rights Watch, the article reports:

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the case against Kem Sokha had been a ploy by Hun Sen “to sideline Cambodia’s major opposition leader and eliminate the country’s democratic system”. “Sending Kem Sokha to prison isn’t just about destroying his political party, but about squashing any hope that there can be a genuine general election in July,” Robertson said.

Yet the evidence of Kem Sokha’s US-sponsored sedition is overwhelmingly damning, even irrefutable. Surely both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch examined the evidence presented in the court case and are aware of the conclusive nature of Kem Sokha’s own admissions of working with the US government to overthrow Cambodia’s current government.

What this reveals then is that supposed “human rights” organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch merely operate behind the smokescreen of human rights advocacy while in reality play a key role in advancing US foreign policy objectives, even if it means covering up Washington’s interference in Cambodia’s internal political affairs in contravention of international law as explicitly laid out in the United Nations Charter.

All About China 

Cambodia is one of China’s closest allies in Southeast Asia, a region already generally friendly with its neighbor to the north. US government media outlets like Radio Free Asia regularly complain about Cambodia’s close relationship with Beijing.

In one February 2023 article titled, “Cambodia and China shore up ties with new agreements,” it claims:

For China, tight ties with Cambodia ensure that Beijing has a supporter in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Time and again, Cambodia has undermined ASEAN unity on the South China Sea over which Beijing has made sweeping claims of sovereignty, angering competing claimants. 

Cambodia’s undermining of Washington’s attempts to transform relatively minor maritime disputes in the South China Sea into a regional or international confrontation with China is just one of many aspects of Cambodian-Chinese relations the US seeks to undermine and roll back through regime change.

The article also notes that Cambodia sees its partnership with China as important to counterbalance Western pressure regarding Cambodia’s “crackdown on political opponents.” No mention is made about the documented foreign-backing of these “political opponents.”

Another point of contention is Cambodia’s growing military cooperation with China, ruling it out as a willing battering ram of Washington’s in a potential future conflict with China.

In the 2022 Diplomat article, “Cambodia Has Little to Gain From Hosting a Chinese Military Presence,” pro-Western commentators complain that:

…allowing a Chinese military base or presence in Cambodia could lead to a deterioration of its relations with both Thailand, a U.S. ally in Southeast Asia that still relies on U.S. military technology, and Vietnam, which has conflict with China over the South China Sea issue. Chinese military personnel in Cambodia would only mean one thing, which is that Cambodia was aiming directly to confront Vietnam.

The argument is incoherent. It erroneously claims Thailand “still relies on U.S. military technology” when in fact Thailand has steadily replaced its aging US military hardware specifically with Chinese alternatives including everything from main battle tanks and other types of armored fighting vehicles, to naval vessels and anti-aircraft systems.

As is the case with so much regarding Western policy analysis, the conclusion that a Chinese military presence in Cambodia equates to plans to wield military power against other nations in the region is pure projection of what Washington itself is doing across Asia, and would like to do with Cambodia specifically.

Washington openly seeks to place military bases across the region, having already signed agreements with the Philippines to do so and already having tens of thousands of US troops stationed in South Korea and Japan. There is also the semi-covert and growing US military presence on the rogue Chinese island province of Taiwan. This military presence is openly being expanded for the purpose of encircling, containing, and even directly confronting and fighting China militarily.

US political interference in Cambodia seeks to remove the current China-friendly government and replace it with a client regime that would cut all political, economic, and military ties with China and in its place, create a nation that would serve as a belligerent US proxy against China.

The US is targeting the whole of Southeast Asia in a very similar way, with US-funded opposition groups, media organizations, and supposed “human rights” groups undermining and attempting to overthrow China-friendly governments across the region, and replacing them with US client regimes that will irrationally cut ties with China.

It is important to mention that China represents Southeast Asia’s largest and most important partner in terms of investment, trade, infrastructure development, tourism, and increasingly military technology.

Just as the US has done in Eastern Europe versus Russia, these nations would forgo sociopolitical stability and economic prospects in exchange for a self-destructive role in Washington’s proxy war with China.

Highlighting the true reason for Cambodia’s sentencing of opposition leader Kem Sokha brings public attention to wider US political interference across Southeast Asia. With more public awareness of this threat to regional sovereignty, governments in the region may have a freer hand in dealing with it as effectively as Cambodia is right now.