With the international donors’ meeting less than a week away, pressure is mounting both within and outside Cambodia for donors to take a harder line with the government and demand more progress on reform.
On Monday, opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, who has been invited to address the donors at their annual meeting in Tokyo on June 12, said he would urge Cambodia’s benefactors “not to be fooled” by the government’s “lip service” toward reform.
“I would ask the donors to take immediate measures that would not require delay and expenditures. I would ask the donors, ‘Please, don’t be fooled by the Cambodian government.’ The people of this country continue to get poorer and poorer,” he said, speaking to reporters.
The opposition leader added that foreign contributors should press for moratoriums on forced evictions and logging, as well as immediate efforts to break up the salt monopoly and end the practice of “ghost soldiers.”
That he was invited at all was itself an indication that donors might be more receptive to critical voices, Sam Rainsy said.
Also Monday, a letter surfaced from five US congressmen on the US House of Representative’s Committee on International Relations calling for a sterner line with Cambodia’s government.
The letter, dated May 23 and addressed to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, said the congressmen were “concerned about the growing threat of political violence,” in the run up to the commune elections, now scheduled for February 2002.
The representatives go on to criticize Cambodia for the delay of the Khmer Rouge draft law, which has been stalled in the National Assembly since the Constitutional Council struck it down on a technicality.
“It is imperative that the National Assembly adopt this legislation as soon as possible so that the tribunal can begin functioning before the end of the year,” the letter states in one of the most public condemnations of the Khmer Rouge trial law the US has made in recent memory.
The letter closes by saying the US officials are “concerned” about the status of Montagnards fleeing a crackdown in Vietnam’s Central Highlands and seeking asylum in Cambodia.
While the “US should welcome the fact that the Royal Cambodian government has largely cooperated with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in facilitating protection and refugee status determination,” the congressmen wrote, “given that dozens of refugees have been refouled to Vietnam since March, there is clearly a need for ongoing protection and monitoring of new arrivals….”
At the time the US officials issued their letter, London-based Amnesty International issued its annual report on human rights in Cambodia, criticizing “a weak and corrupt judicial system.”
Sam Rainsy said the donors must hold the government more responsible, because their unconditional giving “condones government corruption” and worsens Cambodia’s situation.
“If you cannot stop poverty, please at least don’t make more poor people,” he said.