December 15, 2017 / 7:13 AM / a year ago

Cambodia's Hun Sen challenges EU and U.S. to freeze assets

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a ceremony at the Angkor Wat temple to pray for peace and stability in Cambodia, in Siem Reap province, Cambodia December 3, 2017. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen encouraged the United States and European Union on Friday to freeze the assets of Cambodian leaders abroad in response to his government’s crackdown on the opposition and civil society.

Hun Sen, the strongman who has ruled Cambodia for more than three decades, has taken a strident anti-Western line ahead of a 2018 election and has dismissed donor criticism of the dissolution of the main opposition party.

The United States and European Union have suspended funding for next year’s election and Washington has put visa curbs on some Cambodian leaders. There is no current proposal for asset freezes by either the United States or European Union, but some lawmakers have floated the idea.

“I encourage the European Union and United States to freeze the wealth of Cambodian leaders abroad,” Hun Sen told a group of athletes in Phnom Penh, the capital.

Hun Sen said he has no money abroad and any actions by the EU and the U.S. would not hurt him.

The U.S. embassy made no comment. EU Ambassador George Edgar said on Friday there had been no decision on further measures by the bloc.

The Supreme Court dissolved the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) last month at the request of the government, on the grounds it was plotting to seize power.

Hun Sen accused Kem Sokha, the leader of the CNRP of a U.S.-backed anti-government plot. The opposition leader and the United States denied that.

China, Cambodia’s largest aid donor, has leant its support to Hun Sen, saying it respects Cambodia’s right to defend its national security.

Reporting by Prak Chan; Editing by Clarence FernandezThul

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