PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday he was suspending cooperation with the United States to find the remains of Americans killed in the Vietnam War in the latest ratcheting up of tensions between the two countries.
Hun Sen has accused the United States of plotting treason with opposition leader Kem Sokha, an accusation rejected by the U.S. embassy, which has called for the release of the prime minister’s main rival.
“The search cooperation is postponed until a number of issues are resolved between Cambodia and the United States,” Hun Sen said according to pro-government website Fresh News.
Hun Sen said that a total of 80 American soldiers had gone missing in Cambodia during the war in neighboring Vietnam and that half of them had been found.
Hun Sen said the suspension will be lifted after Cambodia-U.S. ties are restored. Washington announced on Wednesday that it would stop issuing some visas after Cambodia refused to accept Cambodian citizens deported from the United States after being convicted of crimes there.
Hun Sen said the policy of deporting them back to Cambodia “break them up as families, as parents and children, and it’s an inhumane (situation) in which some have committed suicide”.
The Vietnam War that ended in 1975 remains an emotive issue in Cambodia.
Hun Sen says the United States has never apologized for its role in bombing his country to try to kill Vietnamese communist guerrillas and should forgive debts built up by a pro-U.S. junta that ruled until it was ousted by the genocidal Khmer Rouge.
On a separate issue, Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it would accept deportees from the United States.
The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment.
Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Catherine Evans