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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lord gives "official" view on Capitol Hill

Lord gives "official" view on Capitol Hill

A ssistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, before the U.S.

House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on September 21, 1995.

TODAY, September 21, Cambodians celebrate the second anniversary of the promulgation

of their Constitution, which established a multiparty democracy pledged to respect

internationally recognized human rights. Cambodia embarked on the path to democracy

with the signing of the Paris Peace Acords in 1991, which brought peace to the country

after two decades of war and the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge.

The Cambodian people marked a new stage in their history with the country's first

free and fair elections in May 1993, leading to the formation of the current coalition

government.

Now, two years later, Cambodia's emerging democracy continues to show impressive

endurance.

The Royal Cambodian Government has begun the process of building political and economic

institutions suitable to the country's current needs, and is actively developing

its economy and infrastructure.

The country today is more open to the outside world than it has been for decades.

Indigenous human rights groups and a vigorous press have become fundamental parts

of society. Cambodia gained observer status at the Association of Southeast Asian

Nations (ASEAN) in July, and hopes to obtain full membership by 1997. Cambodia has

also joined the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Above all, the Cambodian people now know what it means to participate in free elections.

Cambodians are eager to shape their own political future, as evidenced by the willingness

of over 90 percent of the electorate to brave intimidation from the Khmer Rouge and

cross heavily-mined countryside to vote in 1993. Their courageous embrace of their

hard-won democratic rights contradicts the myth that Asians do not care about freedom.

Our assistance and our policies are designed to build a better life for the Cambodian

people and to nourish the fruits of their efforts.

Last month Secretary Christopher travelled to Cambodia to underline America's support.

He met with His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk, senior government officials, and representatives

of the coalition parties and human rights groups during his August 4 visit.

He was encouraged by the progress which he witnessed on Cambodia's political and

economic development, and he underscored our continuing commitment to that process.

The international community, including the United States, recognized its responsibilities

for the reconciliation and reconstruction of Cambodia.

In Phnom Penh, the Secretary signed agreements providing $12 million in technical

assistance, including environmental assistance, money for political and economic

reform, and programs aimed at family health and primary education, as well as $5.4

million in emegency food aid.

Cambodia, for its part, has proven itself ready to work with the United States.

On matters of the highest national importance, Cambodia has shown itself to be a

strong friend. No country has been more open or cooperative in helping us account

for POW/MIAs. On the crucial issue of extending the NPT, Cambodia provided firm support

at the UN. Over the past year Cambodia has begun to work more closely with us on

counter-narcotics matters. On August 12, we signed a letter of agreement establishing

the framework for additional cooperation, including funding purchase of a drug analysis

laboratory and other equipment.

For our part, the United States continues to support efforts in Cambodia to build

democratic institutions, promote human rights, foster economic development, eliminate

corruption, improve security, achieve the fullest possible accounting for POW/MIAs,

and bring members of the Khmer Rouge to justice for their crimes.

The process of development and democratization is always dificult, with many obstacles

to be overcome along the way.

This is particularly true in a country like Cambodia where per capita income, education,

and health care levels are low.

Emerging democratic institutions, particularly the judiciary, are weak. Cambodians

are engaged in a struggle to define "democracy" in a Cambodian context.

As Cambodia begins to prepare for local elections in 1996 and national elections

in 1998, we continue to support strongly Cambodia's democracy, emerging civic organizations,

and nascent market economy.

As a friend, the U.S. has been candidly telling Cambodia's leaders in recent months

of our concerns over recent trends, especially in cases involving freedom of expression

and of the press, and how those trends might jeopadize international support for

the process of change in Cambodia.

We know from our own history that adjusting to the rough-and-tumble of political

discourse in a democracy, particularly when it involves harsh criticism from the

press, can be difficult.

We are concerned about instances where Cambodian journalists have been convicted

of criminal charges, fined, intimidated and, in some cases, attacked, for criticizing

the government. In August, one editor was convicted of "defamation" for

publishing a number of articles critical of the government and fined the equivalent

of $4,000; several other papers may be facing charges in the near future. On September

7, a grenade exploded outside the offices of another paper, and a bystander was injured.

No one has claimed responsibility or been apprehended for this crime.

We welcomed the news that all six defendants charged with incitement for attempting

to distribute leaflets during Secretary Chistopher's recent visit have been released

and that all charges against them have been dropped.

The Royal Cambodian Government signed a new press law into effect on August 31, which

upholds the right to express opinions, and forbids pre-publication censorship. But

it prohibits publishing "information which affects national security and political

stability" - language that has raised concerns that the new law could be used

to silence the press.

The expulsion of Sam Rainsy, a noted government critic, from the FUNCINPEC party

and then from the National Assembly in July raised questions about the Cambodian

government's willingness to tolerate dissent.

A split within the Buddhist Liberal Demoratic Party, the third partner in the government

coalition, may result in the expulsion of four more Parliamentarians, including the

outspoken and effective chairman of the Assembly's Human Rights Commission (Kem Sokha).

During his visit, the Secretary urged all Cambodians to reaffirm their commitment

to building and safeguarding democracy, including freedom of expression and of the

press.

We continue to urge the Royal Cambodian Government to respect the right of all Cambodians

to express their opionions without fear of retaliation or prosecution, and to support

a free press.

The United States has also encouraged Cambodia's continuing efforts to institute

military reforms, including greater professionalization and respect for human rights.

We have also joined with others in the international community who have emphasized

the importance of a commitment to building and safeguarding democracy, including

freedom of expression, to attracting investment and maintaining support for assistance

to Cambodia.

The United States and other countries are committed to continuing our support for

democratization and development in Cambodia. Cambodians have come a long-way in few

short years with international and U.S. support.

At a time when the shortcomings of the United Nations are highlighted, let us recall

the remarkable success of its mission in Cambodia. The international community must

continue its support.

And the U.S. must do its share.

We must not falter now.

Our FY 96 requested budget level for Cambodian assistance is $39.5 million. We recognize

the pressure on our resources. But failure to sustain our efforts could endanger

the gains already achieved in Cambodia, and would send the wrong message about our

support for democracy and the market economy.

Our assistance is targeted precisely at developing the infrastructure and legal and

economic systems necessary for Cambodia to grow on its own by attracting private

investment, and enabling it to become less dependent on international assistance.

USAID projects are helping rebuild Cambodia's infrastructure, including primary education,

health services, and roads as well as supporting training programs for judges, legislature

and court defenders.

Increasing trade and investment are essential in fostering economic growth in Cambodia.

Most Favored Nation (MFN) will do much to boost interest among American businesses

in Cambodia. We welcomed the House passage of MFN status for Cambodia in July, and

hope the Senate will take up the issue soon. Passage of MFN status, combined with

implementation of the OPIC agreement signed by the Secretary in August, will boost

Cambodia's private sector and encourage foreign investment. These steps will help

make Cambodia more self-sufficient over the long run.

Developing a thriving economy and a political system based on respect for human rights

and the rule of law will be essential for Cambodia's continued peace and democratization.

Cambodia faces tremendous challenges if it is to sustain the considerable progress

made to date in overcoming the country's tragic historical record and its legacy.

Cambodia's leaders recognize that enacting military and civil service reform, speeding

up rural development, instituting the rule of law and greater transparency in government,

and dealing with corruption will require even greater efforts.

Cambodia's problems are exacerbated by the fact that the Khmer Rouge continue to

carry out a violent insurgency. Although at this time the Khmer Rouge pose only a

low-level threat, the Royal Cambodian Government must still devote substantial financial

and personnel resources to fighting them that could otherwise be devoted to development.

We have provided humanitarian assistance to support the peaceful reintegration of

over 9,000 Khmer Rouge defectors into Cambodian society in the past two years.

The official Thai policy of no support to the Khmer Rouge is on track.

The Cambodian Genocide Investigation program at State has made significant progress

in its efforts to document the past crimes of the Khmer Rouge and to explore the

legal options for bringing them to justice.

Finally, the U.S. has provided $6 million over two years to assist Cambodia's efforts

to remove the scourge of the estimated 8-10 million landmines in that country.

Making a better life for the Cambodian people is the key to easing the threat from

the Khmer Rouge.

The Cambodian people have courageously faced a succession of terrible conflicts.

They have endured invasion by foreign armies, massive dislocation, and an extraordinarily

bloody revolutionary regime.

Few would have predicted five years ago that Vietnamese occupation would be brought

to an end, that China would cease aid to the Khmer Rouge, that violence would be

greatly lessened, that over 370,000 refugees would return to their homes, that the

Khmer Rouge could no longer count on support across the border in Thailand, and most

important, that a democratically chosen government would be elected and function

effectively in office.

All of these problems have been eased or overcome with support from the UN, the U.S.

and the international community for Cambodian peace and democratization.

We must all do our share so that their hard-won achievements are made secure.

While we recognize the many tests Cambodia faces, both economically and politically,

we believe that Cambodia's people will overcome them with the continued encouragement

and support of the international community.

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