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US won’t forgive Lon Nol debt

We’ve made it clear a number of times ... how ... disappointed we were by cambodia’s decision.

The United States has no plans to forgive Cambodia’s decades-old debt, a senior US diplomat said Tuesday, after Cambodian officials renewed requests for the country’s Lon Nol-era debt to be erased from the books.

Speaking to reporters near the end of a brief visit to Cambodia on Tuesday, Scot Marciel, the US Ambassador for ASEAN affairs and the deputy assistant secretary of state for its East Asia and Pacific bureau, said his government’s stance on the issue had changed little, despite repeated requests.

“The US position is that Cambodia has recognised this debt. We think Cambodia should begin to make payments on this,” Marciel said.

“The Cambodian government has not been willing to do so. So it’s something we’ll continue to talk about.”

In meetings in Phnom Penh earlier Tuesday, Cambodian officials proposed that the US forgive 70 percent of the Kingdom’s debt from the Lon Nol era, estimated at more than US$300 million.

“The debt is from the Lon Nol regime and was used for buying weapons for war,” Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters earlier Tuesday.

“This is the reason why Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong requested cancellation, because the funds [were] not being used to develop the country.”

‘Concern’ over Uighurs
Marciel is the top US State Department official to visit Cambodia since the December deportation of 20 Uighur asylum seekers to China – a move that was a topic of concern in meetings.

“We’ve made it clear a number of times both publicly and privately, how concerned and disappointed we were by Cambodia’s decision,” Marciel said.

“We had urged the Cambodian government before they deported the people not to go that route because they had not gone through the [UN refugee agency’s vetting] process to determine whether they had a legitimate claim to asylum.

“So, yes, we’re very disappointed with that decision. We reiterated that today,” Marciel added.

Marciel said he met with government officials, as well as opposition groups and civil society during his brief stay here, part of a broader trip through the region.

He was to fly to Thailand on Tuesday evening for a similarly short visit to Cambodia’s neighbour. Marciel touched on the recent frosty relations between the two nations Tuesday.

“We are good friends with both Cambodia and Thailand,” Marciel said.

“Like most countries, we’re concerned about the tension between the two countries.

“What we have said is that we hope that both governments, both leaders, will do what they can to try to reduce tensions to begin with.”

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