US Passes Bill to Suspend Some Aid to Cambodia

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a spending bill that would suspend some funding to Cambodia until the government carries out an independent investigation of July’s disputed national election and reforms its electoral system, or until the opposition ends its boycott of parliament. The bill also instructs the World Bank not to “reengage” with Cambodia until the election dispute is settled and to report to U.S. lawmakers regularly on what the Bank is doing to help the thousands of families evicted in recent years from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood. … Of the more than $1 billion in aid foreign donors shower on Cambodia each year, less than $80 million comes from the U.S., and most of that goes directly to nongovernment groups. The new spending bill targets only those funds that would go straight into government coffers for anything other than humanitarian aid. It also protects any funds for human rights training for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, units of which have recently implicated in violently putting down a protest for higher garment factory wages. Whatever modest aid is left, the bill would have it suspended until “a) such government is conducting and implementing, with the concurrence of the political opposition in Cambodia, an independent and credible investigation into irregularities associated with the July 28, 2013, parliamentary elections, and comprehensive reform of the National Election Committee [NEC] or b) all parties that won parliamentary seats in such elections have agreed to join the National Assembly, and the National Assembly is conducting business in accordance with the Cambodian Constitution.” … CPP lawmaker and party spokesman Cheam Yeap said he was deeply disappointed by the bill’s passage and accused the U.S. of unfairly singling out Cambodia. “I very much regret that America passed the law only on Cambodia; why doesn’t America implement this on other countries?” he asked. “I study the law a lot, I know about international law and common law. According to procedure, the Western countries should not do things like this.” Mr. Yeap lamented what he felt was an American bias toward the opposition. “America cannot control Cambodia,” he added. … The bill would also suspend any U.S. funds appropriated for the Khmer Rouge tribunal until the Cambodian government provides or secures funding for the national side of the hybrid, U.N.-backed court. … The U.S. is the court’s third- largest donor, behind Japan and Australia. Of the $200 million provided by donors to the court as of September, the U.S. has given $16.1 million, or about 8 percent.

Zsombor Peter