PM Paints Positive Picture at UN Summit

Prime Minister Hun Sen told the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday that spectacular ec­onomic growth is evident in Cam­bodia, and accused donors of u­sing aid money to benefit their own economies.

Hun Sen also told the assembly that democracy has taken strong roots, human rights are fully protected and Cam­bo­dia has made significant ad­van­ces toward reaching its Millennium Development Goals, especially in education and combating HIV/ AIDS.

“Public order and rule of law have made steady and tangible pro­gress, human rights are fully pro­tected and spectacular economic growth is manifestly evident,” Hun Sen said, according to an English-language transcript of his speech.

The prime minister called for de­ve­lopment issues to remain at the cen­ter of the international community’s agenda, and for shared res­pon­sibilities and transparency be­tween rich and poor countries.

But he lashed out at donors for their aid policies, charging that a large amount of aid money has been spent on technical assistance, conducting studies and in sectors that don’t meet the development priorities of recipient countries.

“Aid has been given to meet the re­quirements of the donors, and at the end most of the aid money has been plowed back to benefit the eco­nomy of the donor countries or to benefit consultants from other countries even though they are in­com­petent,” he said.

“Politically driven hidden agendas and shifting ideologies to bring co­ercive influence on the recipients [of aid] must end. They serve on­ly to punish the poor,” Hun Sen said.

Developing countries should take steps to reform, especially in stren­gthening governance and fight­­­ing corruption, he said, before call­ing for the root causes of terrorism to be addressed.

“We should remove the frustrations of the poor and excluded people living on our planet; restore dig­nity to those who feel they have lost it; and ensure that dialogue and cooperation prevail be­tween civilizations, cultures and re­li­gions,” Hun Sen said.

One foreign diplomat in Phnom Penh described Hun Sen’s depiction of Cambodia on Friday as “quite a rosy picture to say the least,” but added that all delegates at the UN General Assembly will want to pro­ject positive images of their countries.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay blasted the premier’s speech, saying it was disingenuous to blame do­nors for ineffective aid.

“The money doesn’t reach the poor because of corruption,” he said.

Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, agreed that there have been improvements in education and combating HIV/ AIDS, and that people are more aware of their rights than previously.

However, he questioned other ele­ments of the speech.

Political freedom has been narrowing since the July 2003 election, he said, adding: “There is a de­cline of political space this year, es­pecially freedom of expression.”

He also asked who exactly was en­joying Cambodia’s economic de­­velopment.

“Economic growth for whom?” Thun Saray asked.

“According to World Bank statistics, Cambodia is the slowest country in the region for translating economic growth in­to poverty reduction. Even slower than Laos.”

 

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