Few nations have a worse human rights record than Cambodia. The dictatorship of Hun Sen has left a remnant of the Khmer Rouge in power while preventing any but the most nominal reforms, with what little progress was made rolled back after the killing of most of the democratic political figures in 1997.
Dictator with an atrocious human rights record – that sounds like a recipe for a US alliance. And Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is in Cambodia for talks, with the Pentagon looking to dramatically expand military aid to Cambodia for “counter-terrorism” purposes.
Of course, Cambodia doesn’t actually have any serious terrorists, but officials say it is a great chance to get the US in the door and gain influence with the regime. They are also expressing hope that they can expand into Myanmar, perhaps the one nation in the region even more brutal than Cambodia itself.
US officials aren’t just cynically throwing money and weapons at tyrants though: that would be irresponsible. Indeed they seem to have bought into the Khmer legacy, praising the Hunist military for its “dedication to perfection” and desire to be the best “counter-terrorism force in Southeast Asia.”