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Cambodia must protect donors' good will: Aust

Cambodia must protect donors' good will: Aust

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

term.

"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

would remain.

"I think our clout comes from our agreement in the longer

term," he said.

"Our aid depends on constituency support from our

electors."

"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."

"A couple

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

modified

- and the jail terms dropped - before being sent to vote.

"It would

have been very helpful to the Cambodian reputation, substantially helpful."

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