Prime Minister Hun Sen has accepted an apology from the United Nations World Food Programme concerning a media characterisation of Cambodia’s food security that drew on data from the agency.
In a letter addressed to WFP country representative Jean-Pierre DeMargerie, dated December 23 and obtained by The Post yesterday, Hun Sen welcomed WFP’s revised assessment. Hun Sen said Cambodia has made “remarkable progress in reducing poverty”.
“It is therefore a disservice to the nation of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Cambodian people and the donor community when the media downplays or misquotes our achievement on poverty reduction in Cambodia,” he said.
Hun Sen also promised roughly 2,000 tonnes of rice and US$467,000 annually from 2011-2015 to support WFP’s food assistance efforts.
On December 18, DeMargerie penned a letter of apology to Hun Sen for a statement on the WFP website describing Cambodia as a country vulnerable to food insecurity, which was recently reported in a local radio broadcast. WFP said that data was out of date.
“WFP does not consider the situation of food security in Cambodia to be at an alarming level... WFP considers Cambodia as a country with a food surplus,” DeMargerie wrote.
WFP had previously stated that 30 percent of Cambodians lived beneath the national poverty level, while one in three lived in “food poverty.”
It has since revised those statistics. The latest data, it said, put the percentage of Cambodians living in poverty at 27 percent, and the food poverty level at 18 percent.
Casey McCarthy, a communications officer in the UN resident coordinator’s office, said even though Cambodia had a food surplus, many remained without access to a sufficient and healthy diet.
“Nearly 29 percent of children under five are considered underweight. Chronic malnutrition of children and mothers remains of concern,” she said in an email on Friday.
DeMargerie’s apology came just a day after WFP warehouse staffer Seng Kunnaka was arrested and jailed for six months on charges of “incitement”.
The arrest came after he gave printed copies to two co-workers, of an article that officials say alleged Hun Sen and other senior government officials were “puppets” of Vietnam.
WFP has thus far issued no substantive statements about Seng Kunnaka, except to say that the letter of apology and the case of Seng Kunnaka were “separate and unrelated”.