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Donors Discuss Aid for Cambodia - 2002-06-19


International donors are in Cambodia to discuss aid to the poverty-stricken nation. The three day meeting opened Wednesday in Phnom Penh, amid criticism over the slow pace of reforms demanded by donors. Cambodian officials say they expect the annual pledges will be renewed.

Cambodian officials acknowledge the government's progress on reform has been slower than expected in several important areas. But they promise to keep up their efforts, saying they have made some gains.

Some 40 foreign governments and international aid agencies are considering Cambodia's request for about $500 million in aid annually for the coming three years. The sum is about one-half of the government's annual budget.

Cambodia has received more than $3 billion in foreign aid to help fund the government and re-build its economy, which is still suffering from the effects of its civil war and the reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

Some delegates say the government has failed to adequately address corruption, the lack of independence of the judiciary, and excessive logging of Cambodia's forests.

Amnesty International Wednesday issued a report saying human rights in Cambodia are severely hampered by its judicial system. The United Nations earlier this year said it would not help the Cambodian government put on trial former Khmer Rouge leaders who are accused of ordering the torture and killing of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians nearly 30 years ago. The United Nations said the Cambodian government could not guarantee the impartiality of the process.

The United States government last week issued a report that also criticized the lack of reform. And opposition leader Sam Rainsy Tuesday led a march by hundreds of people in Phnom Penh demanding that more aid reach the poor, instead of going into the pockets of corrupt officials.

Nevertheless, some donors say the government is moving in the right direction and say they will renew their aid pledges.