Cambodia: Hun Sen’s Dares U.S.Congress to “Cut It Off”
Carlyle A. ThayerAugust 4, 2013
[client name deleted]We request your views on some comments Hun Sen made over the weekendresponding to the recent discussions in Washington about cutting off aid toCambodia. Hun Sen said, "If you're brave enough, cut it off," and went on to refer tothe time the US halted a shipment of military trucks to protest the deportation of those Uighur refugees, only to have China step in with a shipment twice as large.We request your assessment of the following:Q1. As far as you can recall, is this the most explicit threat that Hun Sen has made toturn to China entirely if the US doesn't mind its own business?
ANSWER: Hun Sen has alluded to China’s no strings attached aid in the past to
indicate that there are alternatives to American aid. But his dare to the US Congressto enact aid cuts is the most direct threat he has made.Q2. And how serious do you think that threat is, both in terms of whether Hun Senwill follow through, and in terms of what it will mean for Cambodia if he does?
ANSWER: Hun Sen’s dare to the US Congress reflects his personal belief that he is in
command of Cambodia and can maintain independence from foreign interference.
Hun Sen’s remarks will only make the matter worse for Cambodia. If the Congress
imposes conditions on aid, Hun Sen is likely to reject it. Hun Sen is unlikely to rejectUS aid in the absence of what he views as a provocation.
Hun Sen’s rejection of US aid will further polarize Cambodian society. The Opposition
looks to the US for support and will make this a political issue. China will also beemboldened
to step in with a “I told you so” m
essage to other countries that receiveUS aid.US aid cuts have to be smart, aid could still be channeled to NGOs.Q3. What concrete impact would losing US aid have on Cambodia -- that is, whatprograms would be most affected, who would suffer, etc.?ANSWER: The US provides about $70 million in total aid. This money goes todemocracy and governance programs, food security, environmental protection,education and health (HIV/AIDS and malaria). Cuts here would impact on the mostvulnerable and marginalized members of Cambodian society.
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