U.S. cuts support for Cambodia gov't over democratic 'setbacks'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is curbing military support and other aid programs for Cambodia amid concerns about recent democratic setbacks in the Southeast Asian nation, the White House said on Tuesday.

“Recent setbacks to democracy in Cambodia, however, caused us deep concern, including Senate elections on February 25 that failed to represent the genuine will of the Cambodian people,” the White House said.

In a statement, it said it was suspending or curtailing several Treasury, USAID and American military assistance programs that support Cambodia’s military, taxation department or local authorities - all of which the White House said shared blame for recent instability.

Washington has spent more than $1 billion to support Cambodia but the recent “setbacks compelled the United States to review its assistance to Cambodia to ensure that American taxpayer funds are not being used to support anti-democratic behavior,” the White House said.

U.S. assistance directed at Cambodians that address health, agriculture and mine clearing would continue, it added.

The move comes as other Western nations and rights groups have decried a crackdown against the political opposition and independent media ahead of Cambodia’s July 29 general election.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Eric Walsh