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US criticises Cambodia's crackdown on press and NGOs

[WASHINGTON] The United States expressed "deep concern" Wednesday over the state of Cambodia's democracy after the government there ordered out an American NGO and pursued a crackdown on independent media.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has run the South-east Asian monarchy's administration for three decades, faces a general election next year and is accused of maneuvering to silence any criticism.

On Wednesday, the government ordered foreign staff from the National Democratic Institute - a US civil society group - to leave the country, one day after threatening to close the independent Cambodia Daily.

"The United States government is deeply concerned by the deterioration in Cambodia's democratic climate in recent weeks," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

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"Two months ago, Cambodia received widespread recognition for running transparent, peaceful local elections," she said.

"In the past two weeks, however, the achievement has been eclipsed by troubling government actions curtailing freedom of the press and civil society's ability to operate."

Ms Nauert said US officials had been in touch with Cambodian authorities to express their concern, in particular about extremely large tax bills recently imposed on US owned or funded media outlets.

"We encourage the government to allow NDI, the Cambodia Daily and other independent media and civil society organisations to continue their important activities so Cambodia's 2018 national elections can take place in a free and open environment," she said.