Acknowledging that the benefits of Cambodia’s increasing social stability are being enjoyed mostly by the country’s wealthy minority, Queen Norodom Monineath Monday urged greater aid to the vast majority of poor Cambodians.
“Our country has come out of war, but the war has left…consequences that make some of our people suffer hardship. We have to struggle our best to get you out of hardship,” the Queen told an audience at a celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Cambodian Red Cross.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife, Red Cross president Bun Rany, said that Cambodia’s most vulnerable—the rural poor—have benefited from her organization’s efforts. But the Queen called for more financial and international assistance to those facing food shortages while trying to eke out livings in Cambodia’s land mine strewn countryside.
Cambodia, which is only beginning to stabilize after nearly three decades of war and political turmoil, remains one of the region’s poorest nations, with a majority of the population living in barely sustainable conditions in rural areas.
Cambodia’s major foreign donors will meet in Paris later this month to discuss terms of a new annual aid package expected to be around $500 million.
Several of the country’s top leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and CPP President Chea Sim, took the anniversary celebration as an opportunity to donate large sums of money to the Red Cross. King Norodom Sihanouk gave $10,000 to the organization.
The Queen complimented the King’s frequent donations to the poor, saying his gifts have helped build schools and houses, as well as provide food and clothing for poverty-stricken Cambodians.
A recent government study showed the richest 20 percent of the Cambodian population increased its income by 18 percent between 1994 and 1997.
But there was only a negligible increase for the poorest 20 percent of Cambodians, according to the Ministry of Planning report.
(Additional reporting by The Associated Press)