United States Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Cambodia Tuesday to join anti-terrorism efforts and expressed his support for human rights groups in the country.
“Today I discussed with the prime minister [Hun Sen] the urgent challenge internationally of countering violent extremism, and we agreed that this is absolutely a top priority,” Kerry told the press.
“The prime minister expressed a deep interest in Cambodia working with our counter-Daesh coalition,” he said using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group.
South-East Asia has seen several high-profile attacks in the past year, including a bombing in Bangkok in neighbouring Thailand in August, and a bomb and gun attack in central Jakarta earlier this month. Dozens of people from Malaysia and Indonesia are suspected of joining Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
Kerry also praised the "valuable work" by human rights leaders and environmental activists whom he met during his brief visit.
His visit would “underscore both US support for democracy in Cambodia but also, importantly, US support for human rights, for civil rights, and for political space,” a State Department briefing note said, according to local media.
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy is in self-imposed exile to avoid being tried on defamation charges that he says are politically motivated.
Kerry’s trip to Cambodia followed a stopover in neighbouring Laos, which is set to chair the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2016.
Kerry was set to travel to Beijing on the next stop of his regional trip.