The Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) on Friday raised more than $13 million as the country’s political and business elites dug deep for the organization’s annual fundraising drive, which was held in Phnom Penh to coincide with World Red Cross Day.
Pum Chantinie, secretary-general of the CRC, confirmed that donations in excess of $13 million had been received during a ceremony at the organization’s headquarters but declined to comment further.
The figure falls short of last year’s drive, which raised a record total of about $14.3 million.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose wife Bun Rany has been the president of the CRC since 1998, presided over the ceremony. Legions of donors lined up to present Mr. Hun Sen with envelopes, bowing to the premier as the amount of their contribution was read out over a loudspeaker.
In a speech at the event, Mr. Hun Sen said he admired the provincial Red Cross offices and individuals who had once again made substantial contributions to the organization.
“All good things rarely come to the president of Cambodian Red Cross, but all the bad problems always come to the president of Cambodian Red Cross, such as house fires, traffic accidents,” he said.
Among those who made large donations to the CRC was agribusiness magnate Ly Yong Phat, a CPP senator whose sugar plantations have come under fire for alleged land grabs and child labor, who said he gave $100,000 to “help the poor people and other disasters.”
“I donated this amount every year since a long time ago,” he said by telephone.
Mong Reththy, another agriculture tycoon and CPP senator, said he had parted with $10,000 at the ceremony, which he estimated was attended by at least 5,000 people. The event was closed off to some members of the media, but broadcast live and played throughout the day on state-run television station TVK.
The CRC’s close affiliation with the ruling party has drawn criticism that the group is failing to uphold the principle of neutrality upon which the Red Cross was founded.
Asked about the perception that the CRC was too closely connected with the ruling party, Mr. Reththy replied: “To the people who accuse the Cambodian Red Cross of serving only the Cambodian People’s Party, please, you create another Red Cross.”
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the municipality gave $500,000 on Friday, money raised through selling “special” number plates.
“I recognize that donations to Cambodian Red Cross go to humanitarian work, so the places that face difficulty have the Cambodian Red Cross,” Mr. Dimanche said.
Other donors included Defense Minister Tea Banh and his wife, who gave $10,000, Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An, who gave $20,000, and CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin and his wife, Choeung Sopheap, who donated $100,000.