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A chance for USAID to shine

A chance for USAID to shine

Dear Editor,

In light of the July 28 election chicanery orchestrated by the ruling party, one has to wonder if donor agencies such as USAID will re-think their role within Cambodia.

According to most recent version of the USAID-funded document Demographic Health Survey (2010), “Three additional free and fair elections took place in 1998, 2003, and 2008. Now Cambodia is stable and well on its way to democracy and a promising future.”

One has to wonder if they are talking about the same Cambodia the rest of the world knows. If a complete lack of transparency and accountability, nepotism, human rights violations, land grabbing and now blatantly rigged elections are USAID’s definition of “democracy and a promising future”, they need to re-take a basic high school class in civics.

Pandering to a morally bankrupt regime in order to maintain a presence in the country only serves to further validate the ruling party’s unapologetically corrupt practices and continues the flow of US taxpayer dollars into a black hole.

In the meantime, it's business as usual for the ruling party, as they are further enabled by the free-flow of money to projects that any government with a social conscious would tend to themselves. Par for the course, the vast majority of Cambodian citizens, particularly those in rural areas, continue to suffer.

Rates of childhood stunting due to malnutrition hover unchanged at 40 per cent since first monitored in 2000, while the waistlines of Cambodia’s politically connected continue to burgeon.

It’s time for foreign governments and responsible agencies to call a spade a spade and hold the ruling party responsible for their rapacious behaviour and disregard of the will of their own people.

USAID has the opportunity to set an example and follow the lead of lawmakers in Washington, DC, who are calling for the United States to cut off aid to Cambodia.

Donor agencies would do well to consider a quote from Dr Martin Luther King Jr: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

Christopher Hilleary
Pharm.D.
Managing Director,
PharmASEAN Advisory Group

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