Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday hit back at critics who raised suspicions about donors’ contributions during disasters in the country.
While visiting flood victims and handing out supplies in Banteay Meanchey province, he said the donors were simply acting from their hearts.
“On the way, I saw a person who posted on Facebook that this great party [Cambodian People’s Party] collects money after floods and collects money after building collapses. Let me send this message – if you want to be enemies with money, go ahead.
“I do not make enemies with money. When generous people contribute from their heart, we accept it as a kind act. They [critics] said we collect money to buy cars, we collect money for Covid-19, everything is about collecting money.
“If generous people want to contribute, we accept any amount. We accept one riel, one hundred riel, one thousand or 10 million riel if they want to contribute. If they give it, we take it to help people. It is their generosity.
“As a matter of fact, you are the ones who raise money, put it in envelopes and then in your own pocket. They were seen in video putting [donated] money into their own pockets,” he added.
As of Thursday, nearly $8 million has been donated to help flood victims in the country, the prime minister said.
Regarding the donations to help prevent Covid-19, Hun Sen said he did not call for people to donate. The King and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk contributed money and okhnas followed their lead, he said using the honorific bestowed on those who donate at least $500,000 to the state for development. The money raised to combat Covid-19 is estimated at nearly $20 million.
Hun Sen said okhnas have also participated in protecting the nation as well. He pointed out that military tanks the government had previously bought were sponsored by some okhnas. Some of them, he said, had bought 10 tanks while others bought five.
“So we have tanks to use. I didn’t have to spend money from the national budget. Okhnas help to buy them. I accept that [donations] . . . We need tanks and artillery. We can use the national budget, but all of them [okhnas] are willing to help.
“Most of the solider barracks along the border are donated by generous people. Some of the okhnas provided 20 barracks and some provided 30 barracks. It is called the people’s defence, not just the army,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said: “There is no problem with our culture of assistance to the needy. The problem is with our politicians who have politicised charity and traded it for votes.
“A better way would be to depolarise both charity itself and the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) and let the latter collect donations and organise humanitarian assistance. Let the CRC invite the King, the Queen Mother, the prime minister, or any other prominent public figure to preside over relief distribution ceremonies if it so wishes.
“It’s unethical to squabble when the nation has fallen victim to acts of God and needs urgent relief assistance.”