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NEWS UPDATES 1 November 2010

Clinton in Cambodia

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United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Siem Reap Sunday for a scheduled two-day visit to Cambodia, amid a flurry of rights concerns surfacing during last week's visit by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In a statement on Saturday, the US state department said the visit, the first by an American secretary of state since Colin Powell's trip to Cambodia in 2003, highlighted Washington's commitment to "enhanced, sustained, and comprehensive engagement in Southeast Asia".

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong hailed Clinton's arrival as a reflection that "the relationship between the government of Cambodia and the US has grown closer" in recent years.

But Hor Namhong said that Cambodian officials would again request the cancellation of the debt that was incurred under the Lon Nol regime in the early 1970s.

"I think the US does not know exactly the stance of Cambodia on this matter, and I will raise it with [Clinton]," he said.

The issue has become a thorn in the side of US-Cambodian relations, with Prime Minister Hun Sen denouncing the debt as "dirty" money that fuelled Cambodia's civil war.

The US argues that cancelling the debt would set a "poor precedent", and that Cambodia is capable of paying it back.

In Siem Reap, Clinton toured Angkor Wat and met Somaly Mam, the head of the anti-human trafficking organisation AFESIP.

Today, she is set to meet King Norodom Sihamoni and senior government officials - as well as opposition leaders - in order to "highlight the importance of a vibrant political arena where all voices are heard", according to the US state department.

Clinton is also scheduled to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and hold a "town hall" forum with students at Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

But Clinton's visit may be overshadowed by rights concerns that arose during Ban's visit to the Kingdom.

During a meeting with the UN head, Hun Sen said the government would prevent the Khmer Rouge tribunal from prosecuting any additional cases beyond its second, and reportedly ordered the UN to close its human rights office in Phnom Penh.

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