Hun Sen Mocks Opposition Request for Donors to Freeze Aid

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday rebuked the opposition for urging foreign donors to refrain from signing any new agreements with the government until after the election and boasted of a new $26 million handed over last week by the European Union (E.U.)

Opposition lawmakers from the SRP and Human Rights Party sent out letters to Cambodia’s foreign embassies and donors on Thursday saying that the current government had “lost its legitimacy” since the National Assembly ejected all 27 of them on June 5. The dismissal leaves the assembly with only 93 lawmakers, all of them ruling CPP members and well short of the 120 required by the Constitution.

“Some people have asked foreigners not to give aid and not to buy goods from Cambodia. A few days ago, I heard they said foreigners should not sign to provide aid or sign on projects,” Mr. Hun Sen said, speaking at an inauguration ceremony for a new pagoda in Kampot province.

“But yesterday the European Union signed to give $26 million for agriculture, so they don’t listen to them,” Mr. Hun Sen said referring to a signing ceremony held with the E.U. on Thursday.

“They provide aid not for me to waste, and [Agriculture Minister] Chan Sarun does not waste the payments,” he said. “Why do those people hate Cambodian people like this? I will not be short of food if the donations are cut or if they stop buying goods from Cambodia. Who will suffer? The people will suffer.”

E.U. Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain signed the five-year deal for 20 million euros, or about $26.2 million, on Thursday—the same day the opposition issued its call for a freeze—along with Mr. Sarun and Finance Minister Keat Chhon.

The E.U. did not reply to a request for comment Sunday but on Thursday said it had not yet received a copy of the opposition’s request.

According to a copy of Mr. Cautain’s speech at the signing ceremony, the E.U. had been working with the government on the deal for the past two-and-a-half years and was giving aid for the first time to an entire sector rather than a specific project.

“This is, from our side, a strong show of confidence and trust in the capabilities of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to efficiently and properly manage our funding in order to realize the objectives of this financing agreement,” Mr. Cautain said.

“It is the first time we are applying these implementation principles in Cambodia and we know they will represent a challenge for all of us, but we believe this is the way to go to ensure increasing the country’s ownership and leadership.”

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and a party candidate in next month’s elections, said Sunday that no foreign embassy or donor had yet reacted to their call to hold off on any new deals with the government.

The CPP-dominated National Assembly dismissed the opposition SRP and Human Rights Party lawmakers, claiming they had effectively given up their seats when they all joined the CNRP to contest the national election together. The opposition lawmakers reject the argument, insisting that they still belong to their old parties as well.

The U.S. State Department has publicly criticized the dismissals as breaching “the spirit of a healthy democratic process.”

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