As Prime Minister Hun Sen painted a positive picture of Cambodia before the UN General Assembly Monday, opposition
party leader Sam Rainsy released a statement calling the premier’s remarks “skewed.”
“A generation after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia remains an unsustainable beggar nation,” the statement read.
Sam Rainsy said the country relies too heavily on donor nations, while more than a third of the people remain below the poverty line and poverty-related diseases contribute to a higher-than-average infant mortality rate.
The statement starkly contrasts with the prime minister’s remarks that Cambodia has experienced “steady growth” where the “main and foremost goal is poverty alleviation.”
Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, characterized both sides as extreme. “It’s a classic case of the glass is half full or the glass is half empty. At the United Nations, the glass is half full. If you are the opposition party, it is half empty,” she said. “Add the two together, divide by two, and then you might have the average truth.”
For instance, she credited the prime minister for building new schools and supporting the Red Cross in improving health care. However, she also said his notion that Cambodia’s economic development will benefit all 11.4 million residents is off base.
The gap between the rich and poor continues to widen in Cambodia, she said. “Until government leaders from the bottom to the top commit to ending the corruption that makes this possible, no comments will help.”
Sam Rainsy’s statement also called on the international community to put “enormous” pressure on Hun Sen to accept more UN control of a tribunal of former Khmer Rouge leaders. Hun Sen repeatedly has pushed for independent proceedings within existing national courts.
Barring this pressure, the Sam Rainsy statement said, “impunity and violence will continue to prevail in Cambodia.”