Cambodia suspends cooperation with US in finding war remains amid tensions

 President of the ruling Cambodian People's Party and Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the party in Phnom Penh, on June 28, 2016.
President of the ruling Cambodian People's Party and Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the party in Phnom Penh, on June 28, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

PHNOM PENH (REUTERS) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday (Sept 14) 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.

Mr Hun Sen has accused the US of plotting treason with opposition leader Kem Sokha, an accusation rejected by the US 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," Mr Hun Sen said according to pro-government website Fresh News.

Mr Hun Sen said that a total of 80 American soldiers had gone missing in Cambodia during the war in neighbouring Vietnam and that half of them had been found.

Mr Hun Sen said the suspension will be lifted after Cambodia-US ties are restored. Washington announced on Wednesday (Sept 13) that it would stop issuing some visas after Cambodia refused to accept Cambodian citizens deported from the US after being convicted of crimes there.

Mr 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.

Mr Hun Sen says the US has never apologised for its role in bombing his country to try to kill Vietnamese communist guerrillas and should forgive debts built up by a pro-US 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 US.

The US Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment.