Cambodia calls for $1.4bn in aid

Cambodians light incense sticks during a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Khmer Rouge
The country is still recovering from Khmer Rouge rule
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for overseas money to help push for a successful trial of Khmer Rouge leaders.

Opening an annual conference of foreign aid donors, he said Cambodia was "fully and unequivocally committed" to pursuing justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died under the 1976-79 Marxist regime.

Cambodia is seeking $1.4bn in aid over the next three years.

But international donors meeting in the capital Phnom Penh have demanded Cambodia clean up its judiciary in exchange for further cash.

The overall human rights situation has changed little since last year

European Union
Negotiations between Cambodia and the United Nations to set up an international tribunal broke down in February after UN officials said they were concerned the planned hearings would not meet international standards of justice.

Hun Sen on Thursday said there was still hope for UN involvement in a future trial and asked donors for "understanding and tolerance" - as well as money.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen
Hun Sen: Criticised for lack of reforms
"Your excellencies will surely agree that the work to rebuild the legal and judicial system is titanic. To succeed, it will require colossal administrative capacity and resources," he told donors.

But the donors said they had seen few reforms so far, and made a list of demands, including a crackdown on corruption, political violence and human trafficking.

"The overall human rights situation has changed little since last year," said the European Union.

The US delegation said Cambodia's local elections held earlier this year had fallen short of being free and fair while the court systems favoured the wealthy and well-connected.

Previously no conditions had been attached to annual aid handouts.

Poverty line

Cambodia is one of the world's poorest countries, with more than a third of its 12 million people living on less than $1 a day.

About half of the national budget comes from foreign aid. Major donors are the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Japan and France.

Following the UN decision to pull out of the Khmer Rouge talks, Cambodia has not yet announced whether it will proceed with trials without UN involvement.

Hun Sen has for years pledged to try Khmer Rouge leaders for their "killing fields" regime but no-one has appeared in court.


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