WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday announced it was levying sanctions against two senior Cambodian military officials for corruption, a move that comes as the Biden administration has expressed increasing concern about China’s influence in the Southeast Asia nation.
The sanctions target Chau Phirun, the director general of the defense ministry’s material and technical services department, and Tea Vinh, a commander in the Royal Cambodian Navy.
Treasury in a statement alleged that in 2020 and 2021, Chau conspired with Tea and other Cambodian officials to inflate costs of a construction project at Ream Naval Base and then planned to use the funds for their own benefit.
“The United States will not stand by while corrupt officials personally benefit at the expense of the Cambodian people,” said Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control director Andrea Gacki.
In a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in June, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman expressed concernabout about China’s construction of new facilities at Ream.
She also sought clarification about the demolition of two U.S.-funded buildings at Ream without notification or explanation, and “observed that a (Chinese) military base in Cambodia would undermine its sovereignty, threaten regional security, and negatively impact U.S.-Cambodia relations,” according to the State Department.