The US announced at the June 11-13 Consultative Group donors (CG) meeting in Tokyo
that it will resume direct aid to the Cambodian Government for the first time in
almost four years.
The US ceased direct bilateral aid to the Cambodian government after the 1997 coup,
but the embassy retained the discretion to provide some direct funding. The resumption
in direct bilateral aid - to be funneled to HIV/AIDS control efforts - is the first
time that discretion has been exercised.
"I am pleased to announce the United States Government plans to enter into an
agreement with the Government of Cambodia to help it control the HIV/AIDS epidemic,"
US Ambassador Kent Weidemann said in his Tokyo CG meeting address.
The US currently spends around $2 million a year on HIV/AIDS programs in Cambodia
but this new agreement could boost that figure to $9 million. Along with three African
nations Cambodia is one of four "f ocus countries" for US HIV/AIDS assistance.
Weidemann hinted that a further loosening of US aid restrictions to the Cambodian
government would be possible if progress was made toward the formation of a Khmer
Rouge tribunal and if the Feb, 2002 commune elections prove to be both "free
In his address Weidemann said that successful implementation of a KR trial and commune
elections would "...have the added benefit, we trust, of further easing our
current legal restrictions, providing the United States Government with more flexibility
in assisting the Government of Cambodia in its development programs."
The US offer capped a successful meeting for the Cambodian government which began
with a speech from Prime Minister Hun Sen mixing contrition and boastfulness with
regard to issues including forestry, women's rights, governance and GDP growth.
By the time the meeting ended donors had pledged $560 million, $12 million more than
in 2000. NGOs also indicated that they would provide around the same as last year's
World Bank Chief Bon-aventure Mbida-Essama told reporters on June 15 that the increase
was due partly to a "substantial" donation from South Korea and increased
funding pledges from the US.
But the price paid by Prime Minister Hun Sen for the windfall in increased funding
commitments were expressions of donor impatience with the conduct of the Cambodian
government in fulfilling both donor expectations and meeting the needs of the Cambodian
The tone of the meeting was described by Mbida-Essama as "very frank".
Donors had made their level of frustration with the pace of reform very clear.
"Human rights, the rule of law, impunity, governance, corruption, the KR trial
- you name it, everything was on the table," he said.
Chea Vannath, President of the Center for Social Development and a CG meeting NGO
representative, praised the rhetoric employed by donors at the meeting.
"[Donors] did a superb job in raising all the issues," Vannath said. Donors
had also addressed in no uncertain terms the key NGO concern of consultation for
greater NGO and community involvement in government policy .
"The donors used much stronger language [than previous years] in terms of their
demands for implementation," she said.
Vannath said that donors singled out legal and judicial reform for strong criticism
after Hun Sen had acknowledged a lack of progress in those areas in his opening address.
Mbida-Essama said that a number of outstanding issues had been resolved at the CG,
with military demobilization now fully funded after Japan offered to provide $10
million towards the project.
Donors also agreed to fund the commune elections but stopped short of committing
any specific amounts of money. In addition, donors, the World Bank, RGC and private
sector representatives agreed to seek consensus on the controversial new foreign
investment laws by the end of the year.
Progress was also made on the issue of illegal logging after the RGC reversed a threat
not to table the latest Global Witness (GW) report on forest crimes.
In stark contrast to threats in February to have the visas of foreign GW representatives
revoked, Prime Minister Hun Sen lavished praise on the environmental watchdog organization
and described their role as independent monitor of the donor-funded Forest Crimes
Monitoring Unit as proof of his government's commitment to forestry reform.
"[By] selecting our most vocal critic [Global Witness]...testifies to our determination
in stamping out corruption from the forestry sector," the Prime Minister told