Cambodia’s political and business elites delved into their deep pockets Thursday to raise more than $14 million for the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) at its annual World Red Cross Day funding drive, trumping last year’s bumper pre-election total by over $300,000.
Prime Minister Hun Sen oversaw the ceremony at Phnom Penh’s CRC office alongside his wife Bun Rany, who has been president of the organization since 1998. In a speech, he praised the altruism of the guests in attendance, who included Defense Minister Tea Banh and prominent businessmen Mong Reththy and Ly Yong Phat.
“I am pleased to thank all political parties that help the people that met suffering in the past, and I also thank all the humanitarians that join together every year on May 8 to generously donate, as you provide the foundation that allows the Cambodian Red Cross to plan and carry out its activities,” the prime minister said.
Last year saw a surge of $4 million in charitable donations compared to 2012, which critics saw as evidence of the donors’ attempts to curry political favor in the run-up to July’s national election.
But while $14 million proved to be a new philanthropic benchmark, the organizers of this year’s drive did not promote the largesse of individual contributors, in contrast to 2013, when the faces of each major donor and the corresponding value of their cash gifts were broadcast on television screens at the ceremony.
CRC spokeswoman Men Neary Sopheak said after the event that the drive had raised an estimated total of $14,360,997, an increase from last year.
She said she did not have information on individual donations at hand, but added: “The humanitarians and government officials donated amounts from $10 to $100,000 or $200,000 for the Cambodian Red Cross.”
Last year, the highest contribution by a government official—$300,000—came from former Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema. City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche wrote on his Facebook page Thursday that the municipality had pledged $300,000, but did not disclose the individual contribution of current governor Pa Socheatavong. He said the $300,000 had been raised by selling vanity license plates.
Hun Neng, the older brother of Mr. Hun Sen and a lawmaker from Kompong Cham, said he was unwell and could not attend the ceremony, but had donated $10,000 to the CRC anyway, as he did last year.
“I think joining to donate to the Cambodian Red Cross can help victims that meet with any disasters,” he said.
Chinese state media also reported that China’s ambassador to Cambodia, Bu Jianguo, donated $10,000 to the CRC, the same amount as last year.
During her speech, Ms. Rany said that the CRC’s annual pledge to Kantha Bopha Hospitals of $1 million would continue unchanged.