Monday, July 15, 2013

US politician slams 'counterproductive' threat to Cambodian aid

15 July 2013
Radio Australia 

US Republicans are calling on Washington to cut off aid to Cambodia if Prime Minister Hun Sen is returned to power at this month's election.
The chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs sub-committee on East Asia, Steve Chabot, says he has no doubt Hun Sen will win "through the incitement of political violence, corruption and nepotism".
But the leading democrat on the Foreign Affairs East Asia sub-committee, American Samoa's Eni Faleomavaega, says singling out Cambodia would be entirely the wrong thing to do to a country that the US has "failed so miserably."

Presenter: Richard Ewart
Speaker: Eni Faleomavaega, United States Congressman

EWART: If the suggestion that aid be removed were to be linked to free and fair elections. Why do you think it is that the US and the US is not alone in deciding not to send observers to the election later this month?

FALEOMAVAEGA: Well, the problem is with or without observers, they're still going to have an election, so what purpose is it going to do by saying that by not supporting or not being there, it's going to really help Cambodia resolve its election problems. I just don't see the connection here.

I think we should go ahead and send observers and see the problems that we've got during the elections, but Cambodia' not the only country, that has always had these problems. My point is why are we specifically targeting or pointing out to Cambodia. We're not going to send observers because we just don't think the elections are going to be fair. I just don't see the logic in saying that by not sending observers, it's going to help the election process.

EWART: Do you think there's more to it, the reason why Cambodia seems to been singled out in this way. Do you think that past history is playing a part here?

FALEOMAVAEGA: I think part of the problems here is that and it isn't just with Democratic administrations. This has been a problem with our foreign policies both Republican and Democratic administrations. We've been very inconsistent. One administration comes in, I'll wipe out all the efforts made by the previous administration, so quite likely I question myself what exactly is our foreign policy? Some administrations emphasise more human rights and all other factors that go into the society's problems are (words indistinct).
Cambodia is a classic example. You only need to mention "The Killing Fields" is a good example. Almost one-fifth of the whole population was genocide thanks to Pol Pot and if you want to really understand and appreciate what these people have had to go through, then the question is why is there not out there committed to a revolution of some sort to get rid of the current administration. I don't know. Is it a culture? Look, at Myanmar, look at Thailand, look at all these other South East Asian countries. They're struggling. Vietnam's another example. But I just think sometimes we get a little too quick with the trigger there. We keep pointing fingers and just say making demands of these countries got to become like democracies that we are used to among the Western nations. And I think we need to temper that understand and appreciate that some people they have no idea what democracy is all about.

EWART: One of the points being made by those who are supporting the idea of cutting aid to Cambodia is the fact that the main Opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, is currently in exile. But our understanding is that he will return to the country at some point between now and polling day on July 28th. Now I presume that the way that he is treated may influence this decision to some degree?

FALEOMAVAEGA: Well, you know, Mr. Rainsy, I don't know the gentleman, I've never met him, I don't know his politics. But if you look at it another way. If you're really committed to the cause, if you really believe that what you believe. Go back to Cambodia, be a Nelson Mandela or a Mahatma Gandhi. They went back and faced (word indistinct) if they had to be in prison. At least people will respect if they know that you believe in what you believe it. If you really believe, is what you say about how corrupt, whatever it is that he doesn't agree with as the far as the administration is concerned of Cambodia not being out there and on the side and be poking fun and always making charges and criticisms about what has happened in the country.

EWART: As it stands at the moment, I think people watching the situation in Cambodia are of a general belief that we already know what the result of the election will be and if it turns out that Hun Sen is returned yet again, presumably those who are supporting this idea of cutting aid to Cambodia will table their legislation. If they do that, will they succeed, will they get enough votes?

FALEOMAVAEGA: Well, I wanted to say that the hearing I thought we had this gentleman representing the American Chamber of Commerce, is giving an entirely different perspective. The idea that US companies are doing business in Cambodia is the idea that getting jobs, the idea of helping the government into a situation where economic development it wants itself, then you can talk about human rights and see that maybe there's a better opportunity for people, for jobs and a better way of living. And so you cannot eat human rights, but you can certainly do something with it, in the terms of the economy and that's why a lot of the American companies have gone there and it's been a big help in raising the standard of living among the people in Cambodia.

EWART: So just to put the point again, if this matter were to come into a vote, in your view which side will win?

FALEOMAVAEGA: The a question of winning and losing, listen we've had issues like this Indonesia is a classic example of what happened in West Papua, New Guinea, and an issue that's still, that's still, still has not been addressed properly. What I'm suggesting is that these things take time to evolve themselves. Cambodia's not different and what I wanted to point out is that there's a lot of things that we've done to Cambodia that we even haven't resolved and I honestly believe that history will show that we were part of the problem and we (?dealt) with Pol Pot that caused 1.7 million Cambodians to be murdered, simply because of our policy that we had towards Cambodia.

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