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Looming cuts to US aid ‘no problem’

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Foreign Ministry secretary of state Ouch Borith. KT/Chor Sokunthea

US government plans to cut 70 percent of aid to Cambodia are no cause for concern, a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

Speaking yesterday at the 24th anniversary of the Constitutional Council, Foreign Ministry secretary of state Ouch Borith said the aid cuts would have no significant impact on the country.

“It is the right of the United States to do so,” Mr Borith said. “Cambodia can stand by itself even if the US cuts aid by 100 percent. We also have other countries helping us.”

Mr Borith said he met with a US Senate clerk official in May to discuss the aid cuts, before relations turned sour between the countries last month.

He added that the US gave $1 billion for developing democracy in Cambodia between 1992 and 2015, the majority of which went straight to NGOs.

Tensions with the US have been escalating since the government last month shut down the US-funded National Democratic Institute and ordered its foreign staff to leave the country.

Prime Minister Hun Sen later accused America of being behind an opposition plot to overthrow him, based on 2013 news footage of CNRP leader Kem Sokha, in which he said the US had been helping him to push for regime change in Cambodia since 1993.

Mr Sokha has been jailed on treason charges and is awaiting trial in prison.

The US subsequently introduced a visa ban on Foreign Ministry officials following a row over the repatriation of Cambodians with criminal records, and later issued a travel warning for US citizens visiting Cambodia.

San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability Cambodia  said:  “The US assistance is not much, but if we see the value of how the US money has helped to strengthen the capacity of institutions and communities, it is worth more.”

In retaliation against the visa sanctions, Mr Hun Sen said Cambodia would suspend its programme to recover the remains of US service personnel missing in action since the Vietnam War.

Mr Borith admitted there are concerns that the US could impose sanctions on imports from Cambodia’s garment industry.

“We are making efforts to diversify to other markets to prevent any challenges,” he said.

On the visa ban issue, Mr Borith added: “This is no problem. We will not die if we cannot go to the United States.”

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