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While visiting the US for the midterm elections last week, Koul Panha asked US officials to make aid to Cambodia come conditional on electoral reform
While visiting the US for the midterm elections last week, Koul Panha asked US officials to make aid to Cambodia come conditional on electoral reform. OU MOM

Tie aid to reform, Panha says

During meetings in the US last week, the executive director of Cambodia’s largest independent elections monitor requested that any aid supplied to the Kingdom come conditional on the implementation of election reforms currently under review.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, made the request to representatives from the US State Department and USAID during a trip to observe the midterm elections.

“Not just the US, but all international donors should provide aid to Cambodia with the pre-condition that the country must implement its promised election reform,” Panha said. “The international community has an obligation.… They provide technical and financial support to the Cambodian government, and this is a chance to ensure that the support will be effectively used with the advance of Cambodia’s democracy and respect for human rights.”

The overhaul of the election system, and especially the National Election Committee, was central to the resolution reached between the ruling party and the boycotting opposition in July. The bipartisan working group on the draft election law is expected to resume meetings today.

“There’s still a risk that they’re not going to deliver more than an empty promise,” Panha said.

Opposition members of the working group, which had hoped to already have the draft law completed by now, estimated that about 10 per cent of the law still contains “sticking points”.

“There are still a lot of challenges, like how to nominate members of the NEC and some problems related to how the NEC makes decisions,” CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said.

Sovann added that he would welcome any foreign assistance that included conditions of successful election reforms, a tactic at which the ruling party balked.

“If donors respect Cambodia, they respect our sovereignty.… The government does not accept any conditions,” said government spokesman Phay Siphan.

When asked why Cambodia accepts conditional loans from the World Bank or International Monetary Fund, Siphan clarified that “we are compelled to accept their recommendations if they improve the country”.

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