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US nixes debt-forgiveness plea

Despite a recent plea from Prime Minister Hun Sen, a United States official said on Friday that the US would not forgive the debt incurred by the Kingdom under the Lon Nol government because Cambodia is “unwilling, rather than unable” to pay.

Joe Yun, deputy assistant secretary for the US state department’s bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said at a congressional hearing that cancelling Cambodia’s debt would “set a bad precedent” for countries in similar positions.

The US gave Cambodia an estimated $317 million in shipments of cotton, rice, wheat flour and other agricultural commodities in the early 1970s, Yun said.

With interest, he estimated that the debt totalled $445 million as of the end of last year.

Because the debt does not exceed 150 percent of exports or 250 percent of government revenues, it does not qualify for forgiveness, Yun said.

Ahead of the US-ASEAN summit in New York last month, Hun Sen referred to the sum in question as a “dirty debt” and called on the US to cancel it.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Cambodia would continue to negotiate with the United States over the debt.

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