Lawmakers in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP on Monday expressed confidence that criticism from NGOs, including a blistering report on illegal logging from forestry watchdog Global Witness, would not cause donors to reduce their aid pledges to Cambodia at the forthcoming donor meeting.
At an annual two-day meeting scheduled for next week, Cambodia’s donors are expected to announce their assistance levels to the government while reviewing “benchmarks” used to gauge efforts at ongoing reform.
The government has often been criticized for failing to meet those benchmarks, which concern areas such as combating corruption, administrative and judicial reform and land management.
In a statement to be submitted to the donor meeting, now known as the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum, the NGO Forum on Cambodia said that progress was lagging or stalled in an array of areas including natural resource management and human development.
“As with previous deadlines, the deadline of June 2006 for the draft anticorruption law to be finalized and approved has been missed,” the group said in a statement on Friday. “A year after this deadline, there is no apparent progress in the legislation process.”
The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission on Monday also drew donors’ attention to what it called continuing restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression and unpunished crimes allegedly committed by government officials.
“Donors should have been quite well aware of this parlous human rights situation in Cambodia,” the group said in a statement.
Deputy National Assembly President and CPP lawmaker Nguon Nhel said Monday that donors know the government’s performance is deserving of their help.
“Donor countries are not bringing sacks of dollars to the government for its corruption,” he said. “I don’t think the donor countries and international institutions will believe the NGOs’ reports,” he added.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said NGO recommendations will be considered but not necessarily heeded by the government.
“I think the donors will listen most to the comments of Samdech Hun Sen and Finance Minister Keat Chhon,” Cheam Yeap said.
“I think donor countries care about all Cambodian people and Global Witness’ report was just an exaggeration and just indirect research from far away,” he said. “I don’t think Global Witness will stop donor countries from giving aid to Cambodia.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Western diplomat said Monday that Cambodia’s donor institutions and countries may not see eye-to-eye with NGOs on the expected government benchmarks.
“The benchmarks of the NGOs and those of the governments are different,” the diplomat said.