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USAID the forum to spend

USAID the forum to spend

The Editor,

I wish to address your Oct 6 article "USAID says it's not the forum to pressure

change".

I am a long-time resident of Cambodia who has witnessed the withdrawal of Vietnamese

troops in 1989, the invasion of UNTAC, the lifting of the US-led embargo, the arrival

of institutions like the World Bank, agencies like USAID, the European Community,

other UN organizations and the NGOs they fund.

I make no claim to being a part of that constantly growing list of worldly academics

who know all there is to know of Cambodia's past, present and future. But I do love,

live with, and respect the Khmer people and culture. I have learned to respect and

never underestimate their wisdom and clear understanding of what most international

aid organizations and their donors are all about - self preservation.

The Khmer people remember when the NGOs all lived modest lives at the Monorom Hotel.

Back then there were no cars, villas or nights out on the town using program money.

A lot of us were volunteers working from our hearts and minds and not our pockets.

Today you drive around in your private $35,000 imported four-wheel drive vehicles,

air-conditioned of course. You live in over-priced, over-sized villas for your personal

comfort and egos. Many of those villas you rent belong to those "corrupt public

officials" that USAID over-funded human rights groups like to complain about.

Your salaries and consultant fees are inflated at the expense of the Khmer people

you were sent here to help. They receive your pocket change for salaries that force

them to live in homes that flood or leak every time it rains, while they struggle

to meet their needs of food, shelter, health care and love. Tell me who is stealing

from whom, when there is such separation of wealth.

If your skin is brown, you are paid less than those who's skin is white. Just ask

any Indian or Filipino nationals living and working in Cambodia who are also victims

of white supremacy.

Frank Huffman asks the question "who would be hurt if we stopped giving aid

to NGOs?"

The Khmer people, and I, believe the answer is that USAID, their grantees and all

those expatriates they employ would be most affected by such a move. With the exception

of here in Phnom Penh and the extravagant villas most expatriates enjoy, life has

changed very little for the average Khmer. The rich keep getting richer while the

number of displaced poor continues to grow.

Huffman again: "We are trying to support, shore up and build good judicial practices,

human rights, public defenders and freedom of press." Has our US Embassy spokesman

been sleeping since Cambodia held its free and fair elections? The Cambodian blind

can see clearer than that.

Tell us, Mr Goodwin, just how much of USAID's $41m budget ever reaches Cambodia?

How much goes into completely unnecessary, self-indulged overheads? How much did

it cost the US taxpayers to bring Ron Briggs over from Bangkok, and into his villa,

to oversee your unsuccessful human rights programs?

No Mr Huffman, Mr Goodwin, Mr Greeley and Mr Briggs, the Khmer people do not care

if you stop funding NGOs because all your millions have, in their eyes, done more

to benefit your bank accounts than their lives. This they clearly see. The average

Khmer is as disappointed and disgusted with your professional decisions and personal

conduct as they were with UNTAC's in the end. If US Senator Jesse Helms has his way,

the day of USAID staff living the life of Donald Trump off the pain and misery of

the disadvantaged will come to an end.

I agree with the many Americans who support USAID being shut down completely. I have

seen you come, watched your spending and the results you have achieved.

The Khmer people know what you're about. Soon will most Americans.
- Rocket Scientist, (Name withheld on request), Phnom Penh.

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