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Cambodia/United States: Relationship between the governments of Cambodia and the USA, particularly with reference to US attempts to destabilize or overthrow the Cambodian government; whether individuals have been caught spying on behalf of the United States

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 15 December 2003
Citation / Document Symbol ZZZ42220.E
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Cambodia/United States: Relationship between the governments of Cambodia and the USA, particularly with reference to US attempts to destabilize or overthrow the Cambodian government; whether individuals have been caught spying on behalf of the United States , 15 December 2003, ZZZ42220.E , available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/403dd2281c.html [accessed 28 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Information indicating recent United States government attempts to destabilize or overthrow the current Cambodian government, as well as information alluding to the capture of individuals spying on behalf of the United States of America, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

After evacuating its mission in 1975, the US government continued to express its opposition to the Khmer Rouge regime that ruled Cambodia for the next four years (US June 2003). Relations between the two countries began to improve after 1991 with the signing of the Paris Conference and the subsequent opening of a United States mission in Phnom Penh, which was upgraded to an embassy in 1994 (ibid.). Economic relations resumed in 1992 with the lifting of the American embargo (ibid.). However, the 1997 deposition of Prime Minister Ranariddh by current Prime Minister Hun Sen led the United States to discontinue "bilateral assistance to the Cambodian Government" (ibid.). US aid has for the most part come through non-governmental organizations since 1997 (ibid.).

Commenting on criticism from the American ambassador concerning the Cambodian government's efforts to eliminate corruption in its midst, the Cambodian foreign ministry said that "'certain ambassadors' had acted like 'opposition parties' and used 'inflammatory words inciting revolt against the Royal Government of Cambodia'" (CNN 29 Aug. 2001).

After the July 2003 elections in Cambodia, the United States Government announced that while improvements had taken place in the democratization of the electoral process, "the election fell short of international standards" (Embassy of the United States 31 Aug. 2003). The United States maintains that it supports democratic initiatives in all spheres of political life in Cambodia (ibid.).

While no US government effort to destabilize Cambodia or conduct espionage therein could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate, there exists a US-based organization whose principal aim is to overthrow the Cambodian Government (US Apr. 2003, 130). The Cambodian Freedom Fighters (Cholana Kangtoap Serei Cheat Kampouchea, CFF) is an organization of approximately 100 armed fighters led by a Cambodian-American and funded by the Cambodian-American community (ibid.). Headquartered in Long Beach, California, the group claims approximately 3,000 members in the United States and over 50,000 in Cambodia (Extremist Groups 2002, 173). The CFF claimed responsibility for attacks on several government facilities in November 2000 that killed or injured almost two dozen civilians (ibid.).

Of the 38 people charged by a Cambodian court with terrorism in connection with the November raid, four were American citizens (BBC 29 Nov. 2000; AFP 29 Nov. 2000). Among the Americans were CFF leader Chhun Yasith and fellow member Thong Samean, who were both tried in absentia (AFP 11 June 2001) and sentenced to life in prison (Reuters 18 Feb. 2002). Another American, Richard Kiri Kim, who was accused of leading the November attack (ibid.), was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment (ibid; CNN 22 June 2001). The fourth American involved, known only as Prahit, could not be found (BBC 29 Nov. 2000).

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) called the trial "unfair and biased against the defendants" and accused it of violating "'the Cambodian Constitution, national law and international conventions'" (CNN 22 June 2001). Furthermore, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (AI 20 June 2001; HRW 20 June 2001) and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR) (LCHR 20 June 2001) criticized the "unfair treatment of the 32 defendants" (CNN 22 June 2001). According to the LCHR, the defendants' right to a fair trial was jeopardized by "illegal arrests," "restricted access to lawyers," "failure to inform defendants of charges," "prolonged illegal detention," "denial of the right to a public hearing," and "threats to lawyers" (LCHR 20 June 2001).

In 2002, the US State Department named the CFF as a terrorist group (30 April 2003). Nevertheless, despite the Cambodian Government's pressure on the United States to extradite Chhun Yasith, as well as the FBI's ongoing investigations into his group, Yasith claimed in Time Asia magazine that he was not worried that he would be extradited since he had not committed any crime (8 Jan. 2001).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP) [Paris]. 11 June 2001. "Trial of 32 Alleged Coup Plotters Begins in Phnom Penh." (NEXIS)
_____. 29 November 2000. "Violence Plays Out as Cambodia's Peaceful Mask Slips." (NEXIS)

Amnesty International (AI). 20 June 2001. "Cambodia: Judiciary on Trial." (ASA 23/005/2001). [Accessed 9 Dec. 2003]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 29 November 2000. "US Citizens Charged in Cambodia." [Accessed 11 Dec. 2003]

CNN. 29 August 2001. "Cambodia Warns Off Diplomats."

[Accessed 9 Dec. 2003]
_____. 22 June 2001. Phelim Kyne. "Cambodia Sentences 'Coup Plotters'."

[Accessed 9 Dec. 2003]

Embassy of the United States of America, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 31 August 2003. "US Government Statement on the Announcement of Cambodian Official Election Results." [Accessed 3 Dec. 2003]

Extremist Groups. 2002. 2nd ed. "Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF)." Huntsville, Tex: Office of International Criminal Justice (OICJ) and the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups.

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 20 June 2001. "Cambodia: Judiciary on Trial."

[Accessed 11 Dec. 2003]

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR), New York. "Committee Calls for Fair Trial Procedures and Protection for Lawyers and Human Rights Activists in Cambodia." [Accessed on 11 Dec. 2003]

Reuters. 18 February 2002. "Cambodia Begins Third Mass Trial of Rebel Suspects."

[Accessed 11 Dec. 2003]

Time Asia [Hong Kong]. 8 January 2001. Vol. 157, No. 1. Kay Johnson. "By Night, a Fierce Rebel."

[Accessed 9 Dec. 2003]

United States (US). June 2003. Department of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. "Cambodia." Background Note. [Accessed 3 Dec. 2003]
_____. April 2003. Department of State, Counterterrorism Office. "Background Information on Other Terrorist Groups." Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002.

[Accessed 3 Dec. 2003]
_____. 30 April 2003. Department of State, Bureau of International Information Programs. "State Dept. Names 36 Groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations." [Accessed 9 Dec. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

Dialog

IRB Databases

Internet Sites, including:

Asian Human Rights Commission

Freedom House

Human Rights Internet (HRI)

Le Monde

Radio Free Europe

Transparency International

United Nations

USAID

World News

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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