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Thursday, September 30, 2010

State Department says Cambodia has ability to pay off US debt

WASHINGTON - The State Department says that cancelling Cambodia's debt would set a bad example because the impoverished country has the ability to pay what it owes the United States.

Joseph Yun, a deputy assistant secretary of state, said Thursday at a congressional hearing that even as Cambodia has accumulated debt with the United States, it has paid off other creditors on time.

Yun says the debt stems from low-interest loans in the 1970s for U.S. agricultural commodities. He says it was about $445 million by the end of 2009.

Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, chairman of the House of Representatives Asia subcommittee, says other countries have cancelled debt for Cambodia, while the United States insists on "squeezing this little, least developed country."
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US Subcommittee To Hold Hearing on Old Debt

Cambodian Prime minister Hun Sen right talked with US congressman Eri Faleomavaega ,left, during a meeting in Phnom Penh Jan. 7, 2010. Faleomavaega will oversee the hearing.

A US House of Representatives subcommittee is scheduled to discuss Cambodia's war-era debt on Thursday.

Cambodia has repeatedly sought the elimination of $300 million in debt from the Lon Nol era, without success. Prime Minister Hun Sen called it a “dirty” debt that should not be repaid.

The Foreign Affairs Committee's Asia, Pacific and Global Environment Subcommittee will discuss the debt Thursday, according to the committee's website.

According to a position paper to be given by Cambodia at the hearing, the government is seeking a wave of the debt due to a “multitude of challenges and constraints facing the country after the adverse impacts of the global economic and food crisis.”

“We seek the understanding and goodwill of the honorable members of the Congress, the US administration, and the people of the USA in granting a favorable consideration of our request for the cancellation of the related debts,” according to a copy of the paper.

Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat from American Samoa and chairman of the subcommittee, will oversee the hearing. Joseph Yun, the State Department's deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, will be the witness.
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Union Rep Hospitalized After Assault

Hundred of Cambodian garment workers Monday held a strike to demand their monthly salary raise to US 93 dollars from current $61.

A factory representative for the Free Trade Union was severely beaten and hospitalized on Thursday, union officials and police said.

Phao Sak, 26, was in serious condition in Calmette hospital in Phnom Penh following the assault.

Union representatives said Phao Sok had tried to bargain for worker bonuses at the Generation clothing factory in Samrong Thong district, Kampong Speu province, ahead of the Pchum Ben national holiday.

Phao Sak was driving on his motorcycle from school to the factory when two unidentified men attacked him near the factory, according to the union, which cited witnesses in a statement Thursday.

The two men hit him repeatedly over the head with boards, the statement said.

“This is not an accident,” Chea Mony, president of the union, said Thursday. “It is an attempted assassination of a Free Trade Union representative.”

Free Trade Union representatives are repeatedly beaten for confronting factories over conditions and incomes, he said.

No suspects have been arrested.

Samrong Thong District Police Chief Khuth Sophal denied the case was an attempted murder. “I think maybe it's because of a drunken altercation. However, police will investigate.”

The Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia was not among those who participated in a general strike last week, but it is among the most powerful unions in Cambodia's garment sector.

In 2004, the union's president, Chea Vichea, was shot and killed by unknown assailants. At least three other union leaders have been killed since then.

Tensions between factories and workers have run high for weeks, with employees demanding better incomes in the face of rising living costs and factories facing competition in a shrunken global marketplace.
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