SIEM REAP, Cambodia — The United States on Friday reaffirmed its military ties with the authoritarian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, a former Khmer Rouge commander, but Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also warned the country about its long record of human rights abuses.
After attending a regional security conference and a separate meeting with General Tea Banh, Cambodia’s defense minister, Panetta said he wanted to emphasize the US support ‘‘for the protection of human rights, of civilian oversight of the military, of respect for the rule of law, and for the right of full and fair participation in the political process.’’
Panetta was in Cambodia as part of the Obama administration’s ‘‘pivot’’ to Asia that seeks to bolster relationships in the region and serve as a counterweight to China. His visit came four days ahead of a planned trip here by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama, who will be the first sitting US president to visit the country.
Human rights groups say the administration is ignoring the record of people like Hun Sen, who has a bloody, decades-long history of crushing political dissent.