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PM calls for transparent aid

Hun Sen blasts claims that the government has misused money from donors

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has called on government officials to ensure that US$1.1 billion in development aid pledged by international donors at a conference last week is used properly.

During a graduation speech at the National Institute of Education on Wednesday, the prime minister also rebuffed critics who say the government has misused foreign development aid, charging that donors themselves are responsible for where and how the funds are spent.

He said opposition parliamentarians who have criticised the government following $1.1 billion in pledges should take their concerns directly to donors.

“I would like to stress that of the $1.1 billion, we know only the figure, so the others who criticise us, don’t ask the government – ask donors themselves, because they have embassies in Phnom Penh,” Hun Sen said.

“They did not give us the $1.1 billion to carry it for them. They have their own projects ... so don’t be so ignorant.”

He added that development projects are handled by donor countries, and that Cambodia only joins in the inauguration of projects after they are completed.

The comments came a week after the most recent Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF), at which international donors pledged a total of $1.1 billion in development assistance for 2010, despite concerns about a lack of government transparency in the spending of aid money.

A briefing paper issued last week by 15 local NGOs lamented what it described as a decline in freedom of expression over the past year, and said donors could appear “complicit” if they did not pressure the government to rein in its legal offensives against outspoken critics.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Wednesday that many foreign-funded development projects have been the subject of scandals because of the corruption of government officials, and argued that the government has not been sufficiently transparent in applying the money.

“Some projects, which are run by the government institutions, the donor and development partners can’t control,” he said.

“Previous experience shows that the government has had problems with the World Bank and the World Food Programme – all these are linked with corruption.”

In his speech Wednesday, Hun Sen also addressed the series of warning shots that were exchanged by Cambodian and Thai troops stationed along the border near Oddar Meanchey province on Tuesday, describing it as a “small issue”.

“[Tuesday’s] clash did not expand the dispute along the border. I think this may have been caused by a misunderstanding. We do not want to have disputes. We want to shorten the disputes and expand the solutions,” the prime minister said.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, said Tuesday that no injuries were reported when border troops from both sides fired warning shots in the air in Trapaing Prasat district at around 9:45am.

He said the six-minute exchange took place when a group of around 10 patrolling Cambodian soldiers met a group of Thai mixed forces, including forestry officers, police and Thai soldiers.

The incident followed an exchange of fire in Oddar Meanchey on April 19, when troops traded rifle shots and rockets in two incidents in Samrong district.



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