PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – The Latest on Cambodia kicking out a U.S. nonprofit promoting democracy (all times local):
The United States is strongly criticizing Cambodia for ordering an American democracy group to leave the country and pressuring dissenting news media — chiding a government whose leader says he shares President Donald Trump's disdain for the press.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the U.S. is deeply concerned about the deterioration in Cambodia's democratic climate in the past two weeks.
She is citing Cambodia's order to expel the Washington-based National Democratic Institute and the closure of the only opposition radio station. She's also criticizing tax investigations against independent media, including Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.
Longtime Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has an uneasy relationship with the U.S., claiming it supports his political opponents. However, he has warmed to Trump, expressing agreement with his strident views on news media.
Cambodia's foreign ministry says the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute must cease operations and remove its foreign staff from the country within a week.
The government accuses the organization of violating laws governing non-governmental organizations as well as tax regulations. The order Wednesday appears to be part of an ongoing effort to rein in media and other public watchdogs before next year's general election.
Other media and civil society organizations targeted for alleged tax delinquency in recent weeks include the English-language newspaper The Cambodia Daily; two U.S. government-funded radio stations Radio Free Asia and Voice of America; and several local human rights groups.
The Washington-based National Democratic Institute is engaged in promoting democracy and strengthening institutions worldwide.