US to expand visa sanctions on Cambodians in wake of 'flawed' election

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has said more pardons are likely, but rejected suggestions he was bending to international pressure

The US government will expand visa restrictions on some Cambodians seen as anti-democratic actors following the country's July 29 election which Washington labels deeply flawed and "neither free nor fair."

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US government would expand restrictions on granting US visas to certain Cambodians instituted late last year in response to undemocratic actions by the ruling party and its allies.

The restrictions will be applied to people in and outside the government "who are responsible for the most notable anti-democratic actions taken in the run-up to the flawed July 29 election," she said.

In some cases it will be broadened to cover their immediate family members.

The move was announced after the Cambodian National Election Committee released official election results Wednesday showing that the party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has dominated Cambodian politics for 33 years, swept all the 125 parliamentary seats in the vote.

In a statement on the day of the election Washington said it was "neither free nor fair and failed to represent the will of the Cambodian people."

"We reiterate our call for the Cambodian government to take tangible actions to promote national reconciliation by allowing independent media and civil society organizations to fulfil their vital roles unhindered," Nauert said Wednesday.

She also called for the government to "immediately release Kem Sokha and other political prisoners and ending the ban on political opposition."