The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) plans to set up an office at Cambodia’s national police headquarters in Phnom Penh to help track down American criminals.
This comes at a time when Washington is seeking to repair strained relations with a close ally of China.
The office will serve to support Cambodian police in efforts to arrest American fugitives and to fight terrorism, police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun told Reuters on Tuesday.
“Before, we cooperated on a case-by-case basis and now we are having an office to work with the objective to work fast,” he said.
The US embassy told Reuters, “A joint FBI-Cambodian National Police task force established to fight crimes against children, money laundering, and financial crime is now operational. Our law enforcement cooperation makes both our countries safer.”
Ties between the US and Cambodia have been polite but distant in recent years, with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government angered by Washington criticism of the dissolution of the main opposition party and arrest of rival politicians and activists.
Last week, the Pentagon expressed concern about the demolition of a US-funded navy facility at Ream, Cambodia’s largest naval base. Cambodia has repeatedly denied reports there was a secret deal with China, its biggest economic and diplomatic ally, to place forces at the base.
One of the world’s longest-serving leaders, Hun Sen has in recent years looked more to Beijing than Washington due to US criticism of his government’s alleged human rights abuses. The opening of the FBI office may be a step towards renewing a productive working relationship between the US and Cambodia.