T HE government was urged to seriously address issues such as corruption when it
met with diplomats and major foreign donors this month.
The United States
and Canadian ambassadors gave indications, if not veiled threats, that foreign
aid money could be diverted to other countries if Cambodia failed to tackle such
The matter was raised at an International Committee on the
Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia (ICORC) preparatory meeting in
Phnom Penh on Feb 20.
Diplomats of 19 countries, along with
representatives of the United Nations and major loan institutions such as the
Asian Development Bank, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, met with
Minister of Finance Keat Chhon to discuss next month's ICORC meeting in
US Ambassador Charles Twining and his Canadian counter-part Martin
Collacott, said the government needed to do more to ensure transparency in its
"I wonder whether the Royal government intends to really air
these issues in Paris," Twining told Keat Chhon during the meeting "I think
there is a great deal of concern among donors that this broader issue needs to
Twining, after the meeting, told the Post: "We are not
threatening to cut our support at this time, but it is true there is a lot of
competition for our aid dollar: Palestine, Somalia, Bosnia and other
He said it was in the interests of donor countries to continue
to support democracy and development in Cambodia, but repeated they were
concerned about corruption and transparency in government tendering procedures
and the awarding of contracts.
He said he hoped that ICORC would be given
"very straightforward" assurances by the government on such matters, to ensure
that " corruption is not paramount".
"I hope the Royal Government can
give us the assurances that these issues are being discussed."
agreed that to deserve more foreign donations, Cambodia had to change its
behavior to show good government and transparency.
"We are trying to stop
that hemorrhage," he said of corruption.
But he appeared to acknowledge
that some in the government were not serious about tackling such issues.
Asked whether he considered some countries were threatening to reduce aid to
Cambodia, he said: "I want the word 'threat' to be heard by those bad elements
[within the government].