Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday he has asked U.S. President Donald Trump to consider converting the debt that Cambodia owes to the United States since the 1970s wartime period into development aid.
While making the request at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations-United States summit in Manila, Hun Sen told Trump that he raised the same issue with his predecessor Barack Obama, telling him it is unfair to ask Cambodia essentially to pay for the U.S. bombing of the country back then.
During U.S.-backed Lon Nol regime from 1970 to 1975, the Cambodian government had borrowed some $200 million from the U.S. to support its fight against the Khmer Rouge. With interest, that debt now exceeds $500 million.
"It seems like the U.S. used a hammer to beat us and want us to pay for the hammer," Hun Sen said, while acknowledging that Cambodia, as a legitimate state, has to be accountable for any foreign debt it has incurred in the past.
Hun Sen also took the opportunity of his meeting with Trump to urge the United States not to interfere in the internal affairs and sovereignty of other states, including Cambodia.
Speaking in front of Trump, Hun Sen said, "In years past, I think it is just a matter of who dares to say and who not, that the previous U.S. administrations had used democracy and human rights in order to interfere into the internal affairs of others', and again and again Cambodia has become the victim."
He accused the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh of working in favor of the opposition party and said Trump's people should look into it.