Cambodia is gearing up for a general election later this month, the outcome of which may not only determine if Hun Sen will continue as prime minister but also if U.S. development aid keeps flowing into the country.
“USAID has no plans to cut assistance to Cambodia,” an agency spokesperson confirmed to Devex as the Obama administration reviews a petition from two Republican senators for Washington to suspend aid if Cambodia’s next polls are not deemed free and fair.
Senators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, both members of the influential appropriations committee, passed a resolution calling for an end to as much as $70 million in direct U.S. aid per year should the July 28 general election not proceed in a “credible and competitive” manner. The resolution also urged the U.S. government to ask international financial institutions and other donors to follow suit.
Hun Sen — a 60-year-old former Khmer Rouge guerrilla leader who has ruled the country with an iron fist since he became prime minister in 1985 — is widely expected to be re-elected for another five years, especially after 28 opposition lawmakers were expelled from parliament and their leader Sam Rainsy faces immediate arrest if he returns to Cambodia after years of exile in France and Australia.
U.S. President Barack Obama paid Hun Sen a visit in 2012 to discuss democracy and human rights in the country, but a report submitted to the U.S. Congress claims that U.S. influence in the country has been diminishing since China became Cambodia’s top donor and regional ally.
According to a USAIDfact sheet, the agency has provided about $800 million to Cambodia since 1992 to help improve governance, health (prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, as well as maternal, child and reproductive health programs) and education. Most of the assistance is channeled through partnerships with local and foreign NGOs.
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