During the four years since our previous visit to Cambodia there have been many changes
for the better in this beautiful country.
The economy shows some hopeful signs of revival as the shadows of the Khmer Rouge
past are erased.
In addition, we were encouraged by the Phnom Penh Post report in April regarding
efforts being made by parliament to reduce corruption in government-associated activities.
Continued reform is essential for future development of the country.
We came to Cambodia on this trip to conduct some humanitarian work in support of
schools for the poor, and to aid with the establishment of small enterprises among
Cambodia's poor. We, like many in the world who are aware of Cambodia's tragic Khmer
Rouge years, have a desire to help the people of this country through donations and
However, we found that barriers to providing help to Cambodians are so severe that
many people and organizations are discouraged, and the aid they would freely offer
is diverted to other needy countries where fewer roadblocks are encountered.
A primary barrier is the import of goods and equipment. It is well known that corruption
at the seaports results in long delays and requires large pay-offs to officials in
order to import even charitable goods. Many charitable organizations rightly refuse
to pay bribes. They cannot violate their principles by supporting corruption and,
therefore, chose to send their aid elsewhere. This directly harms Cambodia's poor,
but eventually also harms all levels of the country's economy.
The world business community is also acutely aware of the import barriers.
We recently heard business people in the USA state that Cambodia cannot be ranked
as a Third World country. Rather it is a Fourth World country because of
its official and unofficial barriers to import and export. This poor view of the
potential for business investment will continue to harm Cambodia economically until
the government effectively moves to stop corruption.
Possibly the single most effective step toward an improved Cambodian economy would
be for the government to hire incorruptible officials to run the port, pay them a
decent wage, and allow commerce to proceed as it does in other countries. If parliament
can continue its initiative on curbing corruption at the seaport and other points
of entry, Cambodia has a chance to shed its
Fourth World image.
- Richard S. Criddle, JoAn D. Criddle, Logan Utah, USA