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Friday, November 12, 2010

The US loses out to China in Cambodia

Beijing offer of no-strings aid to a corrupt administration pays off, writes Asia Sentinel's Sam Campbell

Hillary Clinton's two-day visit to Cambodia Oct 30-Nov 1 could be seen as touching base with an old ally and building links with a future partner. But under the surface a battle for influence is being waged between the US and China in Cambodia, a fight Uncle Sam is unlikely to win.

Cambodia is unique in its dependency on aid, something that countries wanting to influence the kingdom have capitalized on. Since the 1992-3 era of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, literally billions of aid dollars have flowed into Cambodia. Donors in June pledged US$1.1 billion for the coming year, up from last year's pledge of US$950 million.

Cambodia has been happy to receive aid, for the most part–basic services like health care and education are still reliant on donor funds, yet schools and hospitals routinely bear the name of high-ranking Cambodians who are happy to take the credit for Cambodia's rapid development (the head of the Cambodian Red Cross, Hun Sen's formidable wife Bun Rany, is a good example)

The US has been one of the main players in the aid game, both through small NGOs and the US Agency for International Development, which funds a wide range of democracy and governance activities.

Yet rights issues, governance, and in particular corruption, remain pressing problems, and some question how much improvement has been made. Attempts to chastise Cambodia over the snail's pace of reforms have ended badly – US ambassador Carol Rodley was blasted last year for remarking that corruption costs Cambodia US$500 million annually, just one of many Western critics slapped down by the Cambodian government.

As regards aid, the contrast between Washington's (and the West's) blustering moralizing and Beijing's circumspect mercantilism is striking.
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'America's Most Wanted' Airing Special Exposing American Pedophiles in Cambodia

By Hollie McKay

In a special episode of “America’s Most Wanted” airing on FOX this Saturday, host John Walsh will take viewers to the front lines of the international battle against child predators in Cambodia, a nation frequented by pedophiles.

“We’re profiling American pedophiles who have fled to other countries. Westerners go over there primarily to have sex with small children, 6-8 year old boys and girls,” Walsh told Pop Tarts. “I took a small crew with me and went undercover with a British cop and infiltrated brothel nightclubs. It was really heartbreaking to see it.”

Walsh said that within two minutes of being in a Cambodian bar, they were approached by a madam offering them very young children, and believes audiences will be shocked at how easy and how prevalent it is that Westerners involve themselves in such acts.

“It is our garbage that goes to Cambodia and preys on these young children. It is our garbage from America, England, the West that goes to the East and preys upon their poverty,” he said. “People are going to be surprised about how easy it is to do, and how many Westerners fly there just to solicit and have sex with children.”

The episode also provides a rare exploration of a Cambodian prison, and an interview with two British men arrested for their illicit involvement with young children.

“They [the British prisoners] were very arrogant and blaming society for getting caught. There is also this concept that people can pay off the police or even the judges if they get caught,” Walsh explained.

But among the devastation, the veteran TV host was overcome by the strength of one woman in particular, Somaly Mam, a tireless advocate who has dedicated her life to rescuing Cambodia’s children from the sex trade. A sex-crime victim as a child, Mam operates a center for other victimized children, offering them hope for the future.

“Somaly Mam herself had been kidnapped and forced into sex trade when she was 14; now she goes and rescues the poor children one at a time, at great risk to herself. In fact her own 14-year-old daughter was kidnapped by pimps and brutally sexually assaulted, but this didn’t deter her,” Walsh continued. “She is still going in and trying to save these boys and girls from a life of prostitution.”

Walsh also believes it is in our nation’s best interest to assist in tracking down the American pedophiles profiled on the broadcast.

“The number one thing is awareness. These guys will go over there and come back and function as pediatricians, scout masters, school teachers. We need to tell our officials,” he added. “People may ask ‘why should what’s happening in Cambodia affect me?’ Well, the guys that go over there and molest Cambodian kids come back and molest American kids. I’ve been to Haiti, Katrina, Ground Zero and seen some rough things… but the trip to Cambodia was really, really life-changing.”
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