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Kingdom seeks debt relief

Cambodia implores US to forgive over $300 million in Lon Nol-era debt.

CAMBODIA has implored the United States to cancel debts of more than US$300 million that the Kingdom has owed to the United States since the Lon Nol regime of the 1970s, Prime Minister Hun Sen said.

Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker, said that since 1972, Cambodia has been indebted to the US for more than $100 million. Most of that debt, he said, could be attributed to the Lon Nol regime. When the interest was factored in, he said, Cambodia currently owes the United States a total of more than $300 million.

"Now [we] are negotiating," the prime minister said during a graduation ceremony on Wednesday at the Royal University of Law and Economics. "We do not know what sort of things Lon Nol bought at that time that caused [Cambodia] to owe America such a lot of money."

Cheam Yeap said that during a visit to the US from June 1-12 this year, he commenced negotiations with the US State Department and Cambodia's National Assembly and Senate with a view to getting the Kingdom's debt cancelled.

"I led the Cambodian National Assembly and Senate delegation to the US," he said. "I addressed this issue with representatives of the United States' [Department of State] as well as the [House of Representatives and Senate] and asked them to consider cancelling the debt," Cheam Yeap said.

Those representatives assured Cheam Yeap, he said, that they would bring Cambodia's request to US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said that since 1979, in addition to being indebted to the United States, Cambodia also has owed vast sums to other countries, including Russia. "Most of the loans were spent on buying weapons," he said. "Only a little bit of that money was used to develop the country."

Hun Sen also said that the arrival of Vietnamese nationals in the Kingdom was "nothing new", in response to opposition party criticism that the numbers had increased during his premiership.

He said that many Vietnamese arrived in the country in 1979 expressly for the purpose "of liberating [Cambodian people's] lives".

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