I was very happy to read in your October 17 issue the Second Prime Minister throw
back in the face of the German journalist the impertinent accusations of corruption
which every Westerner present in Cambodia attribute to the Cambodian officials. I
mean it is really disgusting, and according to me it is related to racism. All those
people apparently cannot support that the Cambodians decide by themselves what is
to be done in their country, and want to treat them as children who cannot manage
money or make decisions.
It is right that in all the assistance that has been tendered to Cambodia, no responsibility
has been offered to the authorities of the country, and no money has been given to
them to manage, as if it was still a colony. All the money is in the hands of the
foreigners. Again, Samdech Hun Sen is right when he says that if there has been corruption,
it is only in the hands of foreigners managing the aid.
Everybody knows that the major part of the money supposed to help the Cambodian
people has left Cambodia, and is now garnishing the bank accounts of those people
in Switzerland, New York or Paris. I have been in the reconstruction business since
1992, and I have seen many corrupt foreigners who pocketed with total impunity the
funds given to their organizations by international generosity.
Even when it was proved they had stolen money, there was not one organization
that had enough self-respect to sanction them, or to ask for an audit of their accounts.
This is the real pity of international assistance, that all those programs are directed
by foreigners who do not know anything about the country, and act for their own personal
I think that a reformulation of international assistance should be done. It should
be advisable to give the full control of foreign aid funds to the local partners
who know better than foreigners where and how assistance money has to be used. It
is the only way to help Cambodia.
- Samreth Lemhien, ADM of Carere, United Nations Development Program, Battambang.