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Donors push for corruption crack-down

Donors push for corruption crack-down

T HE government was urged to seriously address issues such as corruption when it

met with diplomats and major foreign donors this month.

The United States

and Canadian ambassadors gave indications, if not veiled threats, that foreign

aid money could be diverted to other countries if Cambodia failed to tackle such

issues.

The matter was raised at an International Committee on the

Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia (ICORC) preparatory meeting in

Phnom Penh on Feb 20.

Diplomats of 19 countries, along with

representatives of the United Nations and major loan institutions such as the

Asian Development Bank, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, met with

Minister of Finance Keat Chhon to discuss next month's ICORC meeting in

Paris.

US Ambassador Charles Twining and his Canadian counter-part Martin

Collacott, said the government needed to do more to ensure transparency in its

activities.

"I wonder whether the Royal government intends to really air

these issues in Paris," Twining told Keat Chhon during the meeting "I think

there is a great deal of concern among donors that this broader issue needs to

be treated..."

Twining, after the meeting, told the Post: "We are not

threatening to cut our support at this time, but it is true there is a lot of

competition for our aid dollar: Palestine, Somalia, Bosnia and other

places."

He said it was in the interests of donor countries to continue

to support democracy and development in Cambodia, but repeated they were

concerned about corruption and transparency in government tendering procedures

and the awarding of contracts.

He said he hoped that ICORC would be given

"very straightforward" assurances by the government on such matters, to ensure

that " corruption is not paramount".

"I hope the Royal Government can

give us the assurances that these issues are being discussed."

Keat Chhon

agreed that to deserve more foreign donations, Cambodia had to change its

behavior to show good government and transparency.

"We are trying to stop

that hemorrhage," he said of corruption.

But he appeared to acknowledge

that some in the government were not serious about tackling such issues.

Asked whether he considered some countries were threatening to reduce aid to

Cambodia, he said: "I want the word 'threat' to be heard by those bad elements

[within the government].

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