USAID will not cut aid to Cambodia amid poll concerns

A ballot used during the national elections in Cambodia in 2003. Two U.S. senators passed a resolution to end aid to the Southeast Asian country if its general election do not proceed in a "credible and competitive" manner. Photo by: Daniel Littlewood / CC BY

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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About the author

  • Johannamorden profile

    Johanna Morden

    Johanna Morden is a community development worker by training and a global development journalist by profession. As a Devex staff writer based in Manila, she covers the Asian Development Bank as well as Asia-Pacific's aid community at large. Johanna has written for a variety of international publications, covering social issues, disasters, government, ICT, business and the law.

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