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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Russia may enter WTO before end of this year

Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be completed by the end of this year, a senior Russian trade official said at an Internet conference on Friday.

The multilateral negotiations will resume in Geneva this July and may lead to the completion of the negotiations, Maxim Medvedkov, trade negotiations department chief at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

"A round of negotiations with Vietnam will take place in Moscow next week. We hope to complete the negotiations, as we have good prerequisites for doing that," Medvedkov said.

Negotiations with Cambodia have also entered the final stage, he said. "We will need to meet a number of domestic formalities and then, I hope, we will sign a protocol on the completion of negotiations with Cambodia," he said.

According to Medvedkov, Georgia may not block the Russian accession. "Firstly, that would not meet the Georgian interests. Secondly, the legal architecture of the WTO makes it impossible to block anyone's entry. There had been countries at war with WTO member states but they joined the organization just the same," he said.

A final estimate of possible consequences of the Russian entry into the WTO for the domestic industries will be released in August, he said.

Russia is the largest economy still outside the Geneva-based world trade body. It signed a bilateral WTO agreement with the United States last year, clearing the last major hurdle to its accession.

Source: Xinhua
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Eight Cambodians detained for possible repatriation

By Leslie Berestein

June 23, 2007

The apprehension of several Cambodian immigrants by federal agents in recent weeks has members of San Diego County's small but tightly knit Cambodian-American communityfearful.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, eight Cambodian immigrants from the San Diego area with prior criminal convictions have been detained in anticipation of a repatriation flight that would take them, along other Cambodian deportees from around the United States, back to their home country.

The recent apprehensions caught several local families off guard. Until five years ago, the Cambodian government refused to accept deported refugees, many of them individuals who had been convicted of a crime in the United States.

With nowhere to send them, the U.S. government released many of them on what are known as supervised orders of removal. They were required to check in periodically with immigration officials, but years went by and many went on with their lives.

One of them is Thoeung Sun,, 34, a City Heights man who was convicted in 1995 for his involvement in a drive-by shooting. According to his wife, he had long since put his past behind him.

“After he was released, he completely changed his life,” said Anne Panhwanh, who is Laotian. “He made $80,000 a year. He changed his life. He had a family. And in just one day I am stuck with three kids. He was the primary caretaker of our family.”

Panhwanhsaid her husband was ordered to report to immigration authorities on June 8 and was detained. His brother, who also had a prior conviction, was detained the same day.

“Both grew up here for the majority of their lives and have no connection to Cambodia,” said Tony Lasavath, a family friend.

Sinyen Ling, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, said the process of repatriating Cambodians marked for deportation has been very slow, even after March 2002, when the U.S. and Cambodian governments signed a repatriation agreement.

At first, she said, the flights to Cambodia were fairly frequent, but they dropped off around 2005. Of those to be deported, only about 163 have been sent to Cambodia since the flights began, she said; as many as 2,100 more are still on the list for repatriation.

“I've heard no news that these flights were taking place for almost two years now,” Ling said. “I am curious as to why they have decided to pick up their pace.”

One reason why flights are infrequent is that to be issued travel documents, the deportees must be interviewed by government officials who travel to the United States from Cambodia, Ling said.

Interviews had been scheduled to take place in the next few weeks in San Diego, hence the recent apprehensions, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lauren Mack said.

However, she said yesterday that there has been a delay on the part of the Cambodian government, meaning those detained may not be sent back right away. Their cases will be reviewed, she said, and some may be released, at least temporarily.
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Ambassador: Cambodia-Vietnam cooperation grows

Cambodian Ambassador to Vietnam Vann Phal has highlighted developments in cooperative ties between Vietnam and Cambodia during an interview granted to the Vietnamese press to mark the 40th anniversary of the two countries' diplomatic ties. The interview runs as follows:

Q: What is your assessment of the relations between Vietnam and Cambodia in the fields of politics, economy and culture in recent years?

A: Cambodia and Vietnam’s traditional ties were built on a firm foundation that was fostered and preserved by senior leaders. The ties were based on the two nations' aspirations for solidarity, friendship and mutual assistance in the course of national liberation to gain independence, peace, freedom and development. Our leaders have made regular visits to each other and held frequent working sessions to seek ways to turn the people's aspirations for solidarity, friendship and comprehensive cooperation into reality.

In the context of great upheavals in the region, it is significant that the ties between Cambodia and Vietnam are growing day by day, despite difficulties at time.

In particular, the two countries' cooperation has recently recorded remarkable developments. First of all, their political ties have been constantly strengthened and solidified through a series of visits by the two countries' high-ranking leaders. Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh visited Cambodia in March 2005; State President Nguyen Minh Triet, in March 2007; former Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, in March 2006; Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, in December 2006. Chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Phu Trong has also visited Cambodia, while King Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Vietnam in March 2006 and October 2005, respectively.

Alongside the exchange of visits by Party, State, Government and National Assembly leaders, the two sides have made concerted efforts to bolster the ties between their agencies, sectors, mass organisations, and localities, especially those along the borders. These formal and informal visits demonstrated high resolve of the two countries' leaders in building and fortifying the two countries' relationships under the motto of "good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, and long-term, durable and comprehensive cooperation".

The Cambodian Royal Government and the Vietnamese Government have made a sound decision to sign the supplementary agreement on the 1985 treaty to settle the long-standing border issues in order to build a peaceful borderline, which will be significant to the future of the two countries. In this spirit, the inauguration of the border marker at the Ba Vat-Moc Bai international border gate was held on Sept. 27, 2006 in the witness of the two countries’ Prime Ministers. The two countries plan to finalise the installation of landmarks in 2008.

Agreements reached during high-level visits have created important legal and political ground for the two countries’ cooperative ties to expand and become more practical and effective in all the fields of economics, culture, education, health care and transport and communications. In parallel with the fine development of the two countries’ political relations, the two governments have paid due attention to the development of multi-faceted bilateral cooperation based on the principle of equality and mutual benefits. The two countries have devised a number of mechanisms for bilateral cooperation in economics, culture, science and technology. The two governments also paid special attention to exchange activities to boost the understanding between the two people, especially the youth.

In addition to bilateral relationship, as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the two countries have accelerated cooperation and mutual assistance within the framework of international and regional cooperation mechanisms such as the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), the Non-Aligned Movement, the United Nations, the Francophone, the Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos Development Triangle, the West-East Corridor (WEC), the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), and the Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam cooperation (CLMV). The two nations have regularly exchanged views and coordinated their activities at international and regional forums. Furthermore, the two countries have fulfilled their international tasks in protecting the environment and combating terrorism as well as seeking peaceful solutions to all issues and realising the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

I firmly believe that the two countries’ future relationship that is based on mutual respect, equality and mutual interests will enjoy fine results in all domains, meeting the two peoples’ desire to live in peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region and the world at large.

First of all, I highly appreciate the fine development of the Cambodia-Vietnam relationship and comprehensive bilateral cooperation. I hope that the two countries’ comprehensive cooperation will continue to be promoted in the coming years with the aim of ensuring stability, peace and economic development for the two countries in the new regional and international context.

Q: In your opinion, which sectors should the two countries give priorities to in order to improve the efficiency of bilateral cooperation and successfully tap their respective strengths?

A: To expand bilateral cooperation in an effective way, the two countries should continue to consolidate and develop their relations along the direction agreed by leaders of the both countries during their visits. Furthermore, they should build appropriate mechanisms and policies to facilitate investment by both Vietnamese and Cambodian businesses in industry, agriculture, tourism and construction. The two governments should pour more capital into economic cooperation between bordering provinces and prioritise sectors which the two countries have strengths in such as tourism, education, health care and transportation.

Vietnam-Cambodia friendship and solidarity should be consolidated and strengthened to serve each country's cause of national defence and construction and facilitate their international integration processes.

Cooperation in security and defence should also receive due attention in order to create concerted actions in the fight against transnational crimes for the sake of peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world at large.

The two countries should strive to settle pending issues, including land border marker planting and immigrants in a cordial spirit so as not to let them affect bilateral relations.

Q: In recent years, fairs of high-quality Vietnamese goods are annually organised in Cambodia. What do you think about these annual fairs and their role in the development of the two countries’ trade, investment and tourism relations?

A: The organisation of annual fairs of high-quality Vietnamese goods and the development of bilateral trade, investment and tourism relations over recent years are very useful in helping the two countries improve their products’ competitiveness, attract foreign investment and revise legal procedures, after Cambodia and Vietnam entered the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In addition, favourable natural conditions and potentials in tourism of the two countries have brought numerous opportunities for cooperation. The two countries should maintain their multifaceted cooperation in line with the current trend of integration and economic development, and actively carry out the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia triangle development roadmap and the cooperation programme in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

Over recent years, bilateral relations have made progresses in all fields and obtained encouraging achievements. The first conference of the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle Joint-Coordination Committee held in Pleiku town, Central Highlands Gia Lai province of Vietnam in May 17-18 this year helped facilitate the movement of people, vehicles and products, encourage investment, trade and tourism, in a bid to boost development in the triangle region, fully tap potentials of agro-industrial areas in ten provinces of the three countries. The Co-chairmen of the Joint-Coordination Committee decided to levy preferential tariffs and simplify procedures for cross-border trade in the region.

In 2006 alone, Cambodia-Vietnam trade surged by 30% year-on-year. Vietnam exported US $780 million worth of goods to Cambodia and imported US $170 million. The two countries aim to obtain US $2 billion in trade by 2010.

I hope that bilateral trade, investment and tourism relations in coming years would be developed further in order to contribute to economic development in the region, particularly in transportation and tourism.

Q: You have just taken up your assignment in Vietnam, so what are your impressions of the land, people and development of the country?

A: I have been here just 23 days. However, I worked at the Cambodian Embassy in Vietnam from 1994-1998. Coming back to Vietnam after nine years, I was very surprised at the rapid development of your country. It can be said that Vietnam is running towards the future.

Since Vietnam began its renewal process in 1986, the country has seen big changes. With its accession to international organisations such as the WTO and APEC, Vietnam’s position on the international arena has increasingly improved. I believed that under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam, your country will soon reach the goal of becoming an industrial nation by 2010. (VNA)
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MTV and Fulbright join forces overseas

By NATASHA T. METZLER, Associated Press Writer Fri Jun 22, 4:03 AM ET

WASHINGTON - At Georgetown University, Aaron Shneyer put together a Jewish-Arab band and falafel dinners to help students from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide find common ground. Now he‘s heading to Jerusalem where he‘ll use pop and hip-hop music to promote peace.

The other scholars include a Harvard University grad who will travel to South Africa to create a documentary film on marching bands comprised of underprivileged youth, and two students whose musical studies are tied to their different heritages — Jamaican and Cambodian.

For his fellowship project, Shneyer plans to select five Israeli and five Palestinian students in Jerusalem to compose and study music together and possibly perform.

MtvU will help Shneyer and the other fellows communicate with American students by posting videos, blogs or podcasts online. Shneyer says he hopes it can educate his peers about a region that "all of the news we hear about is very negative."

Although Bowen, 22, is not a musician, she has sung in both gospel and classical choirs for years. A recent graduate of New York University‘s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Bowen plans to research Panamanian contributions to reggae music as a path to understanding the dual identities of West Indians living in Spanish-speaking countries.

She also plans to create a compact disc or Web site with audio clips of Panamanian musicians narrating the history of their culture, which could be used in Panamanian schools.

Similarly, Phally Chroy, a graduate film student at Temple University, received a fellowship to study music from his Cambodian heritage.

"One thing that really helped me a lot was the music. It helped me make a lot of sense about how my mom and dad act toward me and the community," the 25-year-old said in a phone interview from the airport before leaving for a pre-fellowship trip to Cambodia — his first visit back to his native country.

"This music is part of a community of people who almost lost their identity," Chroy said.

His film will likely follow foundation bands around the country preparing to face each other in an annual competition, with a focus on four groups outside Johannesburg, Collins said.

He learned about the foundation during his tenure as president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, in which he played percussion for four years. He wanted the orchestra to travel to South Africa, but was unable to raise the funds. Nevertheless, Collins stayed in touch with the foundation and planned to work with them after graduating from Harvard this spring.

"I just saw the way that we, the orchestra, used music to make people happy," Collins said in a phone interview from his family‘s apartment in New York City. "I wanted to be able to do that on an even larger scale."

Representatives from both the State Department and mtvU said they plan to continue the program.

The first four recipients will begin their fellowships in the fall. Applications for the next round are now open and will be accepted until Oct. 19.
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Creative Student Web Sites Win Doors to Diplomacy Contest

Students from Minnesota, Taiwan take top honors in annual competition

By Louise Fenner
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – Early in 2007, a group of American students traveled to Cambodia to learn about “citizen diplomacy” and undertake projects to help rural schools and orphanages. That trip inspired three of them to create an innovative Web site called Doors 2 Cambodia.

The three students are the American winners in the sixth annual Doors to Diplomacy Web site contest. They share the top honors with four Taiwanese students who created a Web site exploring Taiwan’s international medical assistance programs.

Doors to Diplomacy challenges students ages 11 to 18 around the world to create Web sites that teach the importance of international affairs and diplomacy. This year, 190 teams from 38 countries submitted entries.

The winning Web sites are Doors 2 Cambodia, created by students from Triton High School in Rochester, Minnesota, and International Medical Aid, developed by four students from Ming-Dao High School in Taichung County, Taiwan.

“Others can learn from the research they did,” said Yvonne Marie Andres, founder of Global SchoolNet (GSN), which coordinates Doors to Diplomacy for its sponsor, the U.S. Department of State.

“They did an excellent job of presenting their position on issues of global importance and documenting what their research was,” she said, “and including multimedia and making it interesting.”

Global SchoolNet has pioneered global project-based learning, which brings students together online to collaborate on projects. The 2006 Doors to Diplomacy winners included three American students at an Internet-based “virtual school” who created their Web site entirely online through e-mail and conference calls. (See related article.)

“It’s all becoming multimedia, digital media, and the students love it,” Andres told USINFO. “The students love to be able to create and then have an audience for their creation.”

The Minnesota students’ site incorporates more than 40 video clips about their trip to Cambodia for a service-learning class. The clips can be seen on, and the students also have a page on

The videos include interviews with Cambodian scholars – some in the Khmer language – and a record of the students’ visit to the garbage dump at Stung Meanchey, a district of Phnom Penh where some 70 families live. In one video entitled Tanh Na Rouk (Hell), a Cambodian man describes the killing of his father by the Khmer Rouge and the circumstances that forced him to move his family to the dump.

“Witnessing the tragic conditions [at the dump] was one of the worst feelings we experienced during the entire trip,” said the students on their Web site.

“One of the things that impressed the judges most about the Doors 2 Cambodia team was their work as 'ambassadors' for their project,” said Janice Clark, a public affairs specialist with the State Department. “Not only did they educate others, but [they] actually accomplished some tangible work.” The students helped dig wells in Cambodia, and in preparation for the trip they raised money for bathrooms and chalkboards for some schools and orphanages.

The Taiwanese students faced the challenge of producing their Web site in English (a contest rule) as well as Chinese, and they had to use instant translating software for their research, since much of the material was in languages other than Chinese.

The students raised money for AIDS projects and recruited classmates to sponsor impoverished children through World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. On their Web site, they said they discovered that even a small financial contribution could make a difference to those less fortunate.

Clark said she and the other judges were struck by the students’ extensive research and their advocacy for Taiwan’s international assistance programs. “Their theme was ‘Taiwan used to need help, and now we’re modern and we the Taiwanese need to give back,’” she said.

Each winning student receives a $2,000 scholarship and the adult mentors receive a $500 cash award for their schools.

In addition to the top two prizes, Doors to Diplomacy honored entries from Bulgaria, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, The Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the state of California.

Student peers and educational professionals did the preliminary judging, and final selections were made by the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs.

The winning sites can be viewed at Doors 2 Cambodia – including the video Tanh Na Rouk -- and The Role of Taiwan in World Health - International Medical Aid.

More information about Doors to Diplomacy is available from the Global SchoolNet.

The full text of the announcement of the winners is available on the State Department Web site. More information also is available on Future State, the State Department's youth site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: )
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CAMBODIA: Journalist flees country after receiving death threat

New York, June 22, 2007 --The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned about an anonymous death threat made Saturday against Radio Free Asia (RFA) reporter Lem Pichpisey. Fearing for his safety, Lem fled across the Thai-Cambodian border the next day and is now in exile in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

Lem told CPJ that he received the threat on his mobile telephone while driving in the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh. The anonymous caller told the reporter "to beware" and warned that he "could be killed" for his radio reports on alleged illegal logging activities, he said in recounting the incident.

"I didn't want to leave my country and stop my reporting," Lem told CPJ in an interview on Thursday, "but my life was in danger."

The threat followed a series of RFA reports in which Lem followed up on allegations of official complicity in illegal logging activities. The charges were first made in a research report issued by Britain-based environmental watchdog group Global Witness.

Lem's broadcasts included undercover reporting in the Prey Long forest of central Kompong Thom province. Lem told CPJ that he had been followed by people he believed were plainclothes military police while in the Prey Long forest and later in the capital.

"We call on Cambodian authorities to launch an independent investigation into the death threat made against Lem Pichpisey," said Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director. "Democratic governments must ensure the security of working journalists, even when they report critically on official policies and actions."

A handful of Khmer-language daily newspapers had serialized RFA's reports on the Global Witness report. The local language Sralanh Khmer newspaper was forced to stop publication of the reports after government officials threatened to close it down, according to media reports.

The management of the French-language Cambodge Soir newspaper sacked the news editor who oversaw publication of the Global Witness report's allegations, according to news reports. The newspaper has now halted operations after the news staff went on strike over the dismissal.

Committee to Protect Journalists.

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Vietnamese war veterans go to Cambodia to enhance ties

PHNOM PENH — A delegation from the Viet Nam War Veterans Association began a four-day working visit to Cambodia on Tuesday at the invitation of Cambodian Minister of Social Affairs, War Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Ith Sam Heng.

At a working session the same day, Lieutenant General Dang Quan ThuĂ®, head of the Vietnamese delegation, and Heng agreed to accelerate exchanges and co-ordination between the two countries’ war veterans associations with a view to boosting Viet Nam-Cambodia ties.

Heng said the Cambodian people will never forget Viet Nam’s assistance, particularly the help of voluntary soldiers during the struggle to liberate the country from the genocidal Khmer Rouge.

Heng said the Vietnamese veterans association was a good example for the Cambodian War Veterans Association, especially in terms of improving the lives of Cambodian veterans and their families.

The Vietnamese delegation was scheduled to visit Prime Minister Hun Sen, Deputy PM and Defence Minister Tea Banh, and Deputy PM and Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

They will also attend the first congress of the Cambodian War Veterans Association and visit its establishments. — VNA
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Cambodian culture week to be held in Viet Nam

All in the wrist: Cambodian dancers performing Apsara, an art form recognised by UNESCO as an intangible world heritage. — VNS Photo Doan Tung

A Cambodian Culture Week will be held in HCM City, Binh Duong and Soc Trang provinces from next Monday to Saturday to celebrate 40 years of formal diplomatic relations between Viet Nam and Cambodia.

Some 35 representatives from Cambodia are participating in the event, which is being jointly organised by Viet Nam’s Ministry of Culture and Information and Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. Among activities planned for the celebration will be a performance of Apsara dancing, recognised by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage of the world. The four dances that make up Apsara have earned world wide recognition.

In HCM City, there will be an exhibition entitled Cambodia – Land, People and Traditional Culture. On display will be various images of the country - its landscape and people, in addition to examples of traditional Cambodian wedding dress, antiques, handicrafts and unique sculptures in bronze, brass, silver and stone.

In HCM and Can Tho cities, there will be free screenings of four Cambodian films, including the classic Virtuous Mother, which is standard teaching materials in Cambodian secondary schools and won second prize in Cambodia’s National Film Festival in 2005.

"This cultural week is the product of the two countries’ co-operation. It aims to boost the traditional friendly ties between the Vietnamese and the Khmer people," said Le Tien Tho, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Culture and Information.

Cambodian Culture Week in Viet Nam will also provide an opportunity for artists and actors from the two countries exchange experiences and preserve and develop the cultural identities of the two countries. — VNS
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Cambodia Keeps Taking, Gives Little

A Cambodian beggar with her sister walks in a market in search of alms in the capital city Phnom Penh.

By Hannah Beech

Why do the rich nations keep funneling millions of dollars every year to a corrupt country like Cambodia? Each summer, at around this time, for more than a decade, international donors have pledged huge sums to prop up the impoverished Southeast Asian nation. The donors unveil a goody bag of financial aid contingent on the country tackling endemic problems like corruption, human-rights violations and environmental degradation. And each year, like ritual, longtime Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen dutifully pledges to clean up the government's act. Alas, also like ritual, little or nothing happens. Yet somehow the entire ceremony repeats itself year after year.

On Wednesday, June 20, foreign donors — a collection of foreign governments, multinational banks and various U.N. agencies — promised to funnel $689 million of aid to Cambodia, a 15% increase from last year and an amount roughly equivalent to half the nation's annual budget. This year, they did issue statements chastising the Hun Sen government for failing to adequately battle widespread graft. Cambodia ranks No. 151 out of 163 nations surveyed in Transparency International's 2006 government corruption index. Addressing donor representatives gathered in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh this month, Hun Sen promised that long-delayed anti-corruption legislation would be passed "as soon as possible." The statement was a virtual carbon copy of what he had pledged last year.

Foreign aid has long been employed as a political tool, with varying levels of success. Rich economies get to feel good about sharing their wealth with the less fortunate. At the same time, Western nations dole out cash to poorer economies in hopes of encouraging budding democratization efforts. But if anything, Cambodia has continued to backslide. A Hun Sen-backed coup in 1997 removed Co-Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Opposition party members are regularly harassed. And a July 2006 deadline imposed by Hun Sen himself for introducing a draft of anti-corruption legislation passed with no evidence of any such document.

The country's economy has grown (more than 10% last year, due in part to tourism and the textile industry). But wealth appears to be concentrated in the hands of the few. Earlier this month, the international watchdog organization Global Witness released the findings of a three-year investigation that accuses a network of Hun Sen's relatives and friends of having made tens of millions of dollars from illegal logging. (Several of those implicated by Global Witness have denied the allegations, and the watchdog's report itself has been banned from domestic distribution by the Cambodian government.) In the report, Global Witness castigates the international donor community for facilitating what it labels a deeply corrupt Cambodian ruling class: "Donor support has failed to produce reforms that would make the government more accountable to its citizens. Instead, the government is successfully exploiting international aid as a source of political legitimacy."

The trouble is that Cambodia does not have to depend only on Western donors to help it patch together its economy and government. There is China. Unlike other foreign governments, China puts few strings on its aid, and its generosity in doling out funds for the Cambodian government now rivals Western munificence. Last year, Hun Sen publicly praised Cambodia's "most trustworthy friend" China for its pledge of $600 million in aid and loans; this month, the Cambodian Prime Minister went on to thank the Communist giant for giving money without "order[ing] us to do this or that" — presumably in contrast to pesky requests for reform from other international benefactors. "China has changed the game," says Sok Hach, director of the independent Economic Institute of Cambodia. "Their attitude toward aid has decreased the leverage of the rest of the world."

Further diluting international influence is the potential of oil and gas revenues to transform Cambodia's still largely agrarian economy. Two years ago, Chevron announced the discovery of offshore oil reserves in Cambodia. If natural-resources dollars do start flowing in 2010, as some expect, the country may for the first time enjoy a major revenue source that could help it stand on its own feet. Yet, in countries like Nigeria, oil money has only served to enrich a tiny minority while leaving the rest of the country impoverished. And the alternate source of income may only make it more difficult for Western efforts to tie aid to improved Cambodian governance.

Nevertheless, some human-rights groups blame the donor community for their consistent unwillingness to pull aid when their pleas for reform aren't met. "The donors' list of conditions hardly changes over time, and the government simply ignores them year after year," says Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. "Hun Sen continues to run circles around the donors, making the same empty promises every year and laughing all the way to the bank."
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