The US government has lifted its decade-old prohibition on giving money directly to the Cambodian government, US Embassy officials said Wednesday.
“It’s one more step to broadening and deepening bilateral relations,” US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said in an interview. “Our hope is to have more normal relations and draw Cambodia closer to the community of nations,” he said.
Under the terms of the 2007 US budget resolution, which was passed Feb 15, Cambodia will likely receive about $56 million this fiscal year, without any restrictions on direct government assistance, US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said in an interview.
This marks a sea change in the policy of the US, which banned direct funding after forces loyal to then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen ousted then-First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh during the factional fighting of 1997.
“We’re turning a new page in the relations between the United States and Cambodia,” Cambodia’s Ambassador-at-Large Roland Eng said in an interview Thursday.
“This is very positive. Cambodia more than ever deserves this move. Since 9/11 we have never refused anything the United States has requested.”
Roland Eng was Cambodia’s Ambassador to the US from 2000 to 2005, during which time he helped negotiate many exceptions, for things like health and education, to the ban on direct government funding.
Mussomeli said that no decisions had yet been made on new funding allocations. The US has praised Cambodia for its cooperation on anti-terrorism, but Mussomeli said the policy shift had not been driven only by the exigencies of the “war on terror.”
Mu Sochua, secretary general of the SRP, said she hoped any new government funding would be closely monitored. “Benchmarks for monitoring performance should be well-defined and there should not be any question of corruption,” she said.