Cambodian Leader Wants US Peace Corps Out Amid Row With Washington

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Cambodia has shut down Pentagon programs in the southeast Asian country searching for the remains of US Vietnam War soldiers after Washington denied visas for senior Cambodian foreign ministry officials and their families - a response to Phnom Penh's refusal to accept dual-Cambodian/US citizens who have been convicted of crimes in America.

Its Prime Minister Hun Sen has accused the United States of plotting treason with opposition leader Kem Sokha, an accusation rejected by the USA embassy, which has called for the release of the prime minister's main rival.

The move was in response to the United States announcing it would stop issuing visas to senior Cambodian Foreign Ministry officials and their families. It came a day after he told a pro-government newspaper that he will order the withdrawal of US military-led teams that search for the remains of Americans missing-in-action from the Vietnam War.

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"So far, only 40 [of these] have been found, and there remain around 40 more", Hun Sen said.

The US government lists 48 Americans still unaccounted for in Cambodia.

Hun Sen said the suspension will be lifted after Cambodia-US ties are restored.

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Some human rights groups agree and note that some convicts had spent little time in Cambodia, going to the United States as children.

The Vietnam War that ended in 1975 remains an emotive issue in Cambodia. "It's good if you pull out the Peace Corps", Hun Sen said, referring to the United States, in response to a travel warning issues by the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh urging citizens to show caution amid "anti-American rhetoric by officials". Earlier Sept. 14, the ministry denied that Cambodia had halted or delayed the acceptance of deportees, saying its main interest was amending a 2002 agreement under which it agreed to take them.

Washington previously claimed that Cambodia was refusing or delaying the acceptance of Cambodian nationals who also have USA citizenship who had been convicted of crimes in the USA from being deported, similar to recent measures taken by Washington against Eritrea, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The ministry also called linkage of the two issues "unreasonable". It said the restrictions came after Cambodia refused to accept the return of its nationals expelled from the US.

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