The United States has imposed sanctions on the commander of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit for alleged human rights abuses, the first member of the leader’s inner circle to be blacklisted by Washington, Euronews reports.
General Hing Bun Hieng, head of the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit (PMBU), was sanctioned for “being the leader of an entity involved in serious human rights abuse,” the U.S. Treasury Department said on Tuesday.
The sanctioning of a Hun Sen loyalist comes amid increasingly strained relations between Washington and Phnom Penh. In March, Hun Sen accused the United States of lying when Washington blamed Cambodia’s military and other entities for recent political instability and suspended their aid.
An ongoing crackdown by the government and its allies ahead of a July 29 election has targeted some NGOs, independent media and opposition lawmakers. The government says it is enforcing the law and accuses opponents of conspiring with foreigners to oust it.
The PMBU has been implicated in incidents dating back to 1997, the Treasury Department said, including a 2015 attack on opposition politicians that resulted in three PMBU members going to jail. They were promoted upon their release.
The department also cited an incident where a U.S. citizen received shrapnel wounds.