A USTRALIAN ambassador Tony Kevin has warned that the "reservoirs of
(international) good will" shown to Cambodia should not be jeopardized by
nagging questions of human rights and corruption.
In an exclusive
interview with the Post, Kevin acknowledged that international donors were not
in a position to place much pressure on the Cambodian government in the short
"This is not a pledging conference," Kevin said of the Paris ICORC
meeting, "it is more a review or performance check. It is terribly important to
run a performance check."
Australia's international aid program would be
reviewed in Canberra in April but the $92 million, four-year Cambodian pledge
"I think our clout comes from our agreement in the longer
term," he said.
"Our aid depends on constituency support from our
"If the impression takes hold in Australia and other countries
that Cambodia is corrupt and senior officials line their pockets from the public
purse we are not going to maintain the public support for generous aid to
Cambodia that has been there till now."
"Cambodia has had enormous
support and sympathy from our population... that reservoir of good will should
not be jeopardized," he said.
Kevin said ICORC was not a rubber stamping
exercise but a "policy-oriented, frank and substantial review that requires the
willing and whole-hearted participation of Cambodian leaders."
of things have happened that makes this conference particularly significant. The
security situation has improved enormously... and has given the government
breathing space to gauge its development efforts."
"All of us are
focusing more on these sorts of questions... (which are) really all interrelated
- freedom of the press to report and expose freely, MPs being able to raise
questions without intimidation. All this is very closely linked to the efficient
use of aid."
If legitimate questions could not be raised in the media or
Parliament "then the possibility of misuse of funds or corruption is much
greater," he said.
Kevin said the international donors "were not being
unreasonable" and understood that Cambodia could not immediately produce
foolproof systems of accountable checks and balances.
He said: "We were
disappointed and very perturbed by the Rottana sentencing. It seems to us to be
excessive and sends an unfortunate signal to ICORC."
Kevin also said the
Australian government was disappointed that the draft Press Law was not
- and the jail terms dropped - before being sent to vote.
have been very helpful to the Cambodian reputation, substantially helpful."