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PacNet #80 – US-Cambodia Relations: Human Rights Is One Variable

The bilateral meeting between US President Barack Obama and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Nov. 19 was in the spotlight, at least from the local reaction, during the 21st ASEAN Summit and related meetings. The meeting focused on human rights, fundamental political freedoms, and electoral democracy in Cambodia. The conversation was generally described as “tense” and straightforward since Obama touched a Cambodian nerve by raising concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation, the 2013 national election, and political prisoners. According to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, who accompanied Obama, it will be difficult to deepen bilateral relations if the Cambodian government does not improve its human rights record.