Cambodia opposition says determined to run in 2018 elections

US Ambassador William Heidt. KT  Mai Vireak

US Ambassador William Heidt. KT Mai Vireak

"There has never been a more important time to hold governments accountable for treating press freedom as a human right and a universal priority", Broadcasting Board of Governors CEO John Lansing said in a statement.

"Cambodia still cooperates with the US", he said. He also called on the government to allow the radio stations to resume broadcasting BBG programming.

Potentially further fanning anti-American sentiment, the embassy announced it had stopped issuing visas for some Cambodian foreign ministry officials.

The comments by Son Chhay, a senior member of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, came during the party's first news conference since Kem Sokha's September 3 arrest in Phnom Penh.

Opponents of Hun Sen accuse him of arresting Kem Sokha and cracking down on independent media and other critics ahead of a general election next year in which he could face the toughest electoral challenge of more than 30 years in power.

Ambassador Heidt demanded the government release Kem Sokah and establish a dialogue between the government and the opposition to "salvage" upcoming elections.

US law requires foreign nationals who were convicted felons to be deported, including those with permanent resident status, after they have served their prison sentences.

"This is a crisis situation and I will call on the United States ambassador to Cambodia as well as the Secretary of State to express my concern and urge them to take any and all action to stop this out of control situation and assist the Cambodian people".

"Chinese friends are like a strong back that continues to help Cambodia in every circumstance so that no foreign country can break it up", Hun Sen said on his Facebook page on Wednesday after returning from a trip to China.

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