US ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt said he doubted the Hun Sen administration has “an honest desire” to form a positive relationship” with the United States, reported The Phnom Penh Post Online on Wednesday.
In an unusually candid interview with VOA Khmer on Wednesday Heidt said the kingdom has given the US “clear signals” over the last two years that they are “not interested in a positive relationship”.
“Since I came, let’s be honest, the Khmer government has taken a lot of steps against the US,” said the ambassador, citing the suspension of joint military exercises and cancellation of a longstanding Navy Seebees humanitarian programme earlier this year as examples.
The comments are the strongest ever to come from the US embassy in Phnom Penh since a September press conference where Heidt denied accusations that the US had colluded with the opposition CNRP leaders to overthrow the Hun Sen regime.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Heidt’s comments conveyed a “wrong assumption” and could inflame the relationship between the two countries.
He went on saying that while the government still believes in the US involvement in the plot against the government, those alleged nefarious actors may have been specific groups in the US, rather than the government as a whole.
Paul Chambers, a lecturer at Naresuan University’s College of Asean Community Studies, said Heidt’s remarks could be a sign of Washington’s waning patience with Cambodia’s tilt toward China.