U.S. cuts $2-mln funding to Cambodia’s mine removal effort amid crackdown


PHNOM PENH, Nov 7 (Reuters) – The United States will cut $2 million in funding next year to Cambodia’s leading landmine clearance body, the group said on Tuesday, in what it called a bid to silence government criticism about Vietnam War-era bombs dropped by the U.S.

The cut comes amid a crackdown on critics of authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who could face the biggest electoral challenge of his career in a general election next year, and amid a surge in anti-American rhetoric.

Hun Sen’s opponents see the crackdown as an effort to shore up his party’s strength ahead of the vote.

The Norwegian People’s Aid, which channels $2 million from the United States for mine and cluster bomb clearance, will halt funding next year, said Heng Ratana, director-general of the government’s Cambodian Mine Action Centre.

“They did not tell us the reason,” he told Reuters. “I think that they want to shut our mouths up and stop us from talking about the chemical weapons dropped by the U.S.,” he said, without elaborating.