PM’s Donation Criticized as Political Reward

Prime Minister Hun Sen donated $40,000 to the Cambodian High­er Education Association during a Council of Ministers meeting Tues­day, sparking criticism that he was rewarding political support from the group, which has strongly criticized the opposition.

In October, Cambodia Higher Ed­­u­cation Association President Seng Phally said he was planning protests at Phnom Penh Inter­na­tional Airport if opposition leader Sam Rainsy returned to Cambodia.

“This is a humanitarian donation,” said government adviser Chea Chamroeun, who is rector of the Chamroeun University of Poly-Tech­nology and was present at the meeting.

“[Hun Sen] didn’t encourage the as­sociation to oppose the Sam Rain­sy Party,” Chea Chamroeun said, add­ing that $30,000 of the sum was earmarked for a library, while the remainder was allocated for no specific purpose.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said that the donation was ty­pical of Hun Sen’s favoritism to­ward organizations that serve his personal and political interests rath­er than social welfare.

Seng Phally declined comment.

On Wednesday, Hun Sen made a further foray into the world of ed­ucation at the inauguration of Svay Rieng University. He asked Nation­al Police Com­miss­ioner Hok Lundy and Svay Ri­eng Provincial Governor Chieng Am, who both helped finance the pro­ject, to offer free education at what will be the province’s first university.

Hun Sen’s brother and Kom­pong Cham provincial Governor Hun Neng said he had also contri­bu­­ted to the school, which cost a­l­most $1 million.

“We built the university because Svay Rieng is a poor province, and the people cannot go to Phnom Penh to study,” he said.

“This morning we collected $840,000 to sponsor more than 400 stu­dents to study for free for four years for a bachelor’s degree,” he said, adding that the money was collected from businessmen.

Center for Social Development Pres­ident Chea Vannath voiced con­cern about political influence in Cambodia’s education system.

“The politicians continue to use the schools and students,” she said.

“You teach them the wrong way, and those people will become the leaders of the country, and the vicious cycle will repeat itself.”


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