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FBI opening office in Cambodia

FBI opening office in Cambodia
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The FBI plans to open an office in Cambodia amid tenuous relations between Washington and Phnom Penh, Reuters reported.

The office at the headquarters of Cambodia’s national police will provide support in anti-terrorism efforts and tracking fugitive Americans, police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun told the news service. The two nations had previously worked together on a case-by-case basis, but a formal office would streamline the relationship, he said.

The U.S. Embassy told Reuters the two law enforcement agencies have a preexisting relationship, pointing to a task force established last year to address issues such as international organized crime and money laundering.

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“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,” the embassy said in a statement.

The establishment of the new office comes despite shaky relations between the two nations. The U.S. has criticized Cambodia for its closeness to China and its dissolution of the opposition party, according to Reuters. The Defense Department has also sought answers on the demolition of a navy facility funded by the U.S.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has said the Ream Naval Base is being renovated, but Pentagon officials have expressed suspicions that Chinese forces could be stationed there in the future.

“Such a military presence would negatively impact the U.S.-Cambodia bilateral relationship and be disruptive and destabilizing to the Indo-Pacific region,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement last week.

The Cambodian government has denied any such arrangement with Beijing, and the prime minister said last year that warships from all nations will be permitted to dock there.