Cambodia: Blogs sharply criticize donor meetings

The international media, carefully following the recent meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and foreign donors, exploded in disdain this week over an “annual ritual” repeated yet again: Hun Sen promised to purge his government of corrupt officials, pleaded for more aid, and was granted his wish, without question, by the international donor community. The decision comes directly after a slew of charges against the Cambodian government, which includes evidence of illegal logging and severe human rights violations.

Dissident blog KI Media, citing a recent article in The Economist, noted Hun Sen’s insistence that he can receive aid from donor behemoth China, regardless of what other governments request.

Mr Hun Sen reminds Western donors that if they get too demanding, he can always rely on China to provide soft loans without strings. The big oil revenues that Cambodia will start earning in the next few years will also reduce foreign donors’ leverage, laments Mr Illes.

Time Magazine ran a similar piece critical of both the Cambodian government and its donors. It, too, was cited on KI Media. And, similarly, oil was a key concern.

Further diluting international influence is the potential of oil and gas revenues to transform Cambodia's still largely agrarian economy. Two years ago, Chevron announced the discovery of offshore oil reserves in Cambodia. If natural-resources dollars do start flowing in 2010, as some expect, the country may for the first time enjoy a major revenue source that could help it stand on its own feet. Yet, in countries like Nigeria, oil money has only served to enrich a tiny minority while leaving the rest of the country impoverished. And the alternate source of income may only make it more difficult for Western efforts to tie aid to improved Cambodian governance.

Details are Sketchy cited the same article, but emphasized donors’ tendency to “save face” and stroke their egos when delegating funds. International aid to Cambodia has little to do with helping people, the blogger protests, but rather with big politics.

The spring of this cruel fate, it seems, is as simple as it is cynical: ego. Rich countries like to make themselves feel good by giving money to poor countries. Whether that money actually makes it into the hands of people who need it, or just gets pocketed by corrupt politicians and their corporate cronies, appears to make little difference. It’s the thought that counts.

The Cambodian blogosphere, strangely silent on politics, did not have much else to say recently. KI Media and Details are Sketchy—two of Cambodia’s most heavily charged political blogs—continued to follow suit this week with their sharp commentary.


  • In the last ten years since the July 1997 coup to topple then first Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the donor community has been pumping billioins of US dollars to prop up the impoverished Cambodia contingent on Hun Sen Government tackling endemic problems like corruption, deforestation, the plundering of State assets, land grabbing, drug and/or people trafficking, human rights abuses, control of the judiciary, extrajudicial killings and lawlessness. But nothing has happened.

    Therefore, it is safe to say that the donor community doen’t care much about the overwhelming majority of Khmer people who live far below the poverty line. This particular community only cares about the mafiosi Hun Sen regime.

  • Whoever wants to follow the Cambodian situation as it shows up in the printed press, is invited to regularly look at the glimpses from the Khmer press (in English) which I edit since more that 10 years under the name of The Mirror:

    Every day from Monday to Saturday we translate one article, and in addition about 15 headlines from different papers, and on Sudays I add a weekly comment.

    Norbert Klein, Phnom Penh

  • Thok Tiep

    I guess cambodia shall belong to Youn’s teritory in imediat future.

  • Don Jameson

    This is indeed a sad situation but not much different from the way donors behave all around the world, with a few exceptions such as Burma, where western nations perceive no real interest and thus can enjoy the “luxury of our ideals” as one former US Ambassasdor (the last one) to that country put it. He lobbied strongly against almost any contact with Burma but was a big proponent of support and understanding with regard to China, whose human rights record is no better than that of Burma. Not very consistent it would seem. This is the way of diplomacy and it is propelled in part by the fact that there is not much outsiders can do to stop corruption/human rights abuses in countries like Cambodia, unless they want to make them pariahs like Burma and North Korea, which has not worked very well either, especially when they have strong allies like China to bolster them in time of need. Of course there is always the Iraq solution, but that has not been a resounding success either. So we are at something of an impasse, which will most likely be broken only when internal conditions in these countries finally lead to change. Unfortuately, with all the pressures building up in the meantime, this will very probably be acccompanied by unpleasant side effects, including violence and suffering, for which there are ample historical precendents in all of the counrries mentioned.

  • we’re khmers we’ve to find out the resolution for our p

    eople to live in safty in our native country.

  • Whether we feel happy when international donors will pledge to give $690 million for Cambodian development. The poor is suffering the land’s grabbing by the rich and powerful. The nation development is to evict forcibly the poor from their home and dump them outskirt of countryside without enough of road, clean water, school, market and so on. So that is the Gov’t strategy to develop the country.

  • Sopheak

    Hun Sun must step down as he is not competent enough.

  • The work the international community do is just like games that kids play. We see there are alot of issues not only Cambodia, but other countries as well, but the international community hasn’t done enough.

    By doing so, the people of poor country become hostage of their leaders. I started to lose hope now!!!

    The world is stuck by stupid diplomatic rules, and bureau cratic procedure… and donor can spend thier tax payer’s money to fund government that are known to be corrupted.

  • Sokheoun

    The $690 millions donation doesn’t reflect the acchievement of the hunsen govt yet it reflects its weak ness becaue logically the stronger need less support and only the the weaker need more support. On the other hand, the pledge increased is to balance the increased inflation in Cambodia. And lastly i dnt believe that hun sen govt begged for only $600million, and the donors give them more. I think hunsen govt begged even more than that but they cant released their secrecy.

  • Deacon Miller

    Oh stop whinning!! The Contract between the a country’s citizens applies to Cambodians as well as Americans (read the American Declaration of Independence). If the Government consistently breaks that contract and will not respond to the will fo the people, do what the Americans did — kill them.

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