Friday, 2 October 2009

US debt may become development aid to Cambodia: Hor Namhong

Cambodian Minister of Foriegn Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong addresses reporters at the Phnom Penh International Airport upon his return from New York on Thursday.

Written by DAP NEWS -- Friday, 02 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News media)

More than US$300 million owed by Cambodia to the US since the US-backed Lon Nol regime might be passed back to Cambodia as development aid, though the US Government must first consider carefully, Hor Namhong, Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister said on Thursday.

“I asked the US Government to reconsider this debt,” Hor Namhong told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport after his return from the 64th United Nations Security Council summit in New York. “If this debt cannot be eliminated, it should be reversed as development aid to Cambodia.”

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that “the US Government is focusing on this issue effectively and carefully,” he said.

Hor Namhong claimed that “Hillary Clinton admires the democratic system implementation and human rights situation in Cambodia as she said that Cambodia has to continue and keep developing, not to returning backward.”

An opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) Lawmaker and some NGOs have recently criticized democratic system and human right situation in Cambodia.

Hor Namhong noted that “Only Cambodia in the world allows thousands of NGOs working including NDI and IRI of US working freely in Cambodia.”

SRP Lawmaker Mu Sochua told DAP News Cambodia that she supported all aid to develop Cambodia.

“I strongly reject all claims … that I called on the US government to stop military aid to Cambodia,” Mu Sochua said. “I only called on the US Government to decline entry visas for some military officials indulging in corruption, land abuses and illegal deforestation.”

She added that she called on the US Government to check aid provided to Cambodia goes where it is supposed to. “Elected leaders have not shown yet enough democratic and human rights implementation, and especially elected candidates must have a real conscience to improve.”

Some news agencies previously quoted Mu Sochua’s as saying in the US that she called on the US Government to stop military aid to Cambodia.

Hor Namhong told Hillary Clinton to clearly distinguish between crackdowns on free speech and criminal defamation cases.

Apart from bilateral talking with US Secretary of State, Hor Namhong also participated in the UN Security Council summit discussions on the world economic crisis, food crisis, climate change and other issues.

“Since 2004, the US has sought to strengthen and expand its bilateral defense relationship with Cambo-dia,” a US embassy in Phnom Penh statement said. “Our cooperation focuses on international peacekeeping, counterterrorism, counter narcotics, border and maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operation, and defense sector reform. Our goals are to develop the capabilities of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) in these areas, while encouraging Cambodia’s commitment to the rule of law, transparency in governance, sustained democratic development, and respect for human rights.”

Since 2006, Cambodia has received approximately US$4.5 million worth of equipment and technical assistance through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. The US has also provided humanitarian assistance. Since 2005, the US Army, Navy, and Marine Corps have helped to build and republish schools and medical clinics throughout the country.

US military medics and dentists have also worked with their RCAF counterparts to provide free health care to some of the most isolated and impoverished communities in Cambodia.

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