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US Restricts Visas for Cambodians ‘Undermining Democracy’

As a response to anti-democratic actions, Trump administration restrict VISA for Cambodians

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Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a ceremony at the Angkor Wat temple to pray for peace and stability in Cambodia, Dec. 3, 2017.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will restrict visas for Cambodians “undermining democracy” in the Southeast Asian nation following the dissolution of the main opposition party and a crackdown on independent media.

The State Department said it was a direct response to “anti-democratic actions” by the Cambodian government but did not disclose which individuals would be affected. It said visa records are confidential under U.S. law.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert called on the Cambodian government to reinstate the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved by Supreme Court order last month, and free its leader Kem Sokha, imprisoned since September. She also urged Cambodia to allow civil society and media to operate freely.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held power for more than three decades, has sought to neutralize political opponents and silence critics ahead of national elections next year. Kem Sokha has been charged with trying to topple the government with U.S. support, which Washington has said is a baseless accusation.

Supporters of Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, stand outside the Appeal Court during a bail hearing for the jailed opposition leader in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Sept. 26, 2017.

Nauert said Cambodia’s actions run counter to the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991. The United States and 18 other governments signed the accords, which ushered in democracy after the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, then occupation by Vietnam and civil war.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will restrict entry into the United States of “those individuals involved in undermining democracy in Cambodia,” Nauert said in a statement, adding that in certain circumstances, family members of those individuals will also be subject to visa restrictions. The department cited a provision of U.S. immigration law under which individuals can be denied entry if the secretary determines it would have “adverse foreign policy consequences.”

The White House has already terminated U.S. support of Cambodia’s national election committee, saying last month that the July 2018 vote “will not be legitimate, free or fair.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation and take additional steps as necessary, while maintaining our close and enduring ties with the people of Cambodia,” Nauert said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks during a press availability at NATO in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 6, 2017.

​Monovithya Kem, an opposition spokeswoman currently in the U.S., welcomed the visa restrictions and called for targeted financial sanctions on senior officials in Hun Sen’s government. Kem, who is the daughter of Kem Sokha, urged the U.S., Japan, Australia and the European Union to coordinate responses to the “crisis” in Cambodia and help win her father’s freedom.

Like many prominent opposition figures, Kem has fled Cambodia as she fears arrest.

Hun Sen has been in office since 1985 and has held a tight grip on power since ousting a co-prime minister in a bloody 1997 coup.

In recent months, the government has intensified restrictions on civil society groups and independent media outlets. In September, it shut down the English-language Cambodia Daily. Authorities have shuttered radio stations that aired programming from U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, whose reports they allege are biased.

The government also expelled the U.S. National Democratic Institute, which helped train political parties and election monitors, accusing it of colluding with its opponents.

Hun Sen has moved Cambodia closer to China in recent years and become increasingly critical of Washington. However, he’s been complimentary of President Donald Trump.

Speaking at Asian leaders’ summit attended by Trump last month, Hun Sen praised the U.S. leader for non-interference in affairs of other nations, but complained the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia was not adhering to the policy. (VOA)

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Narendra Modi Dismisses The Opposition Grand Alliance as a ‘Failed Experiment’

Calling upon every party worker to ensure that his booth was strong, he said that nothing could stop the party from coming back to power in the coming elections

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Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (Wikimedia Commons)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday dismissed the Opposition grand alliance as a “failed experiment” and said that parties are coming together to defeat “one man” to form a “majboor” (helpless) government for solely indulging in corruption while the country wants a “majboot” (strong) government.

Asserting that there has not been a single scam in his government, he said this was proof that a government can be run without corruption.

In his valedictory remarks winding up the two-day BJP National Convention at the Ramlila Maidan here, he came down heavily on the opposition parties, saying there were aligning for their “self interest” while the BJP-led NDA government was fighting for the nation’s interest.

“These days a campaign has been going on to promote mahagathbandhan which is a failed experiment of Indian political history. The parties, which were born protesting against the Congress, its working culture and its corrupt practices, are now uniting,” Modi said in a direct attack on most of the regional parties which are forging a grand alliance with the Congress at the national level.

He told over 12,000 delegates including from top brass to district-level office bearers that these political parties were surrendering to the Congress at a time when the grand old party was at its lowest ebb and its leaders were out on bail in corruption cases.

“These parties (the regional parties), which had emerged as options against Congress, have betrayed the people’s mandate and trust,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that when such alliances take shape, the governments in those states work under political compulsions and cited the examples of recent developments in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“The Chief Minister of Karnataka (H.D. Kumaraswamy) is saying that he was working like a clerk and not as a Chief Minister. In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the governments are being threatened (by allies) to take back cases or face the consequences,” he said calling these incidents as “trailers” of the grand alliance.

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Mahagathbandhan a failed experiment, country wants a majboot not majboor sarkar: Modi. VOA

Modi said that politics is done on the basis of ideologies and alliances are made on visions but for the first time it is happening that “when all are uniting against one man”.

“You need to understand and make the people understand what is behind their intentions. They have joined hands to form a ‘majboor’ government because they do not want to see a strong government which has ended all the corrupt practices,” he said.

“They want to do good to their families and relatives, while the country wants a strong government so that everyone can develop. They want a government which can broker in defence deals while the country wants a strong government to fulfil every need of the armed forces.

“They want a helpless government so that they can do scams in the name of farmers’ loan waiver while we want a strong government to empower the farmer. They want a government so that the urea scam can happen, while we want a government so that the farmers get fertilizers on time and fair price of their crops,” he said.

Referring to various alleged corruption cases like 2G, 3G and CWG of the UPA regime, the Prime Minister attacked the Congress and their allies and said his government was giving modern facilities to the children so that they can move forward in the field of sports with honesty and transparency.

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“We want a strong government so that everyone in the country can take advantage of Digital India Mission, so that the country could feel proud on the success of Gaganyaan, so that the country gets benefits with the mines,” he said.

Referring to his government’s ambitious Ayushmann Bharat Scheme, he said that his government was focussing to provide free treatment to 100 million families while the opposition wanted a government which could do scams in the healthcare sector.

Calling upon every party worker to ensure that his booth was strong, he said that nothing could stop the party from coming back to power in the coming elections.

“Last four years have taught us that nothing is impossible. We have made it possible. When we took over, we inherited a weak foundation. Today our foundation is getting stronger. Imagine what will happen if we get another five-year term,” he said. (IANS)