Hun Sen Hails Beijing for Aid Without Strings

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday praised China for pledging virtually as much aid as all Con­­sultative Group members com­­bined last week, and with no strings at­tached.

“Six hundred million is equal to the CG, and it has no conditions and no benchmarks,” Hun Sen said during a cable factory inauguration in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao dis­trict on Tuesday.

“I asked [Chinese Prime Min­is­ter] Wen Jiabao to help me. China talks little but does a lot,” Hun Sen said.

On Saturday, the last day of his of­­ficial state visit, Wen Jiabao pledged $600 million in foreign aid—just $1 million short of the sum pledged by the 17 CG members at their March meeting.

The CG, which does not include China, operates on the basis of Cam­bodia meeting certain benchmarks to demonstrate improvement in such areas as poverty re­duction and reform in public ad­ministration and the judiciary.

Several benchmarks set at the December 2004 meeting, such as the passage of an anti-corruption law and a moratorium on economic land concessions, were not met by the March meeting.

Sri Thammarong, an advisor to Hun Sen, was quoted by The As­sociated Press as saying that about a third of the money pledged by Wen Jiabao, around $200 million, was in the form of low-interest loans to build two bridges.

A government official said Sun­day on condition of anonymity that much of the remaining $400 million was slated for projects China had already promised to fund, such as the new, $50 million Coun­cil of Ministers complex.

Government spokesman and In­formation Minister Khieu Kan­harith said Tuesday that the government believes tying aid to re­form benchmarks is unreasonable and unnecessary.

“Conditions are the pretext of some countries that don’t want to give the aid. Those who give the aid without condition know our be­havior,” said Khieu Kanharith, adding that Japan, a CG member, had also pledged unconditional aid.

But others said they worried that there were in fact hidden con­di­tions tied to China’s generous donation.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said a deal might have been struck in which China was granted special privileges. “Don’t allow aid to force the government to give China too many concessions,” he said.

“Aid without conditions will force the government to be careless when monitoring Chinese com­panies,” he said. “That will cause destruction more costly than the aid.”

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said that the CG process was in the best interests of the country’s development.

“The US does not put conditions on its aid but works through the CG process,” he said. “The donor countries set those [conditions] because they are things that are important to those countries and in the interest of Cambodia’s de­velopment.”

British and German Embassy officials declined to comment. The European Union Charge d’Af­faires did not return messages, and Japanese Embassy officials could not be reached for comment.

(Additional reporting by Whitney Kvasager and Erik Wasson)


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