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NEWS UPDATES 4 June 2009

US envoy’s comment on graft angers Cambodia

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Cambodia on Tuesday protested the US ambassador's recent assertion that corruption saps the Southeast Asian country of up to $500 million a year that could otherwise be used for development, reported the Associated Press.

US Ambassador Carol Rodley said Sunday the lost money could be used to construct 20,000 six-room school buildings or pay every Cambodian civil servant an additional $260 a month.

Rodley, who was speaking at a concert to popularize the fight against corruption, also expressed the hope that a long-delayed anti-corruption law would finally be enacted this year.

In a letter to the US Embassy, Cambodia's Foreign Ministry said it was "very much regrettable that a representative of a foreign government has made such an allegation based on a biased assessment and without any proof."

It said the $500 million figure was invented by a think tank, the Economic Institute of Cambodia, which it charged is associated with the political opposition.

But Cambodia has long been criticised by foreign donors for its high level of corruption.

In 2004, a study prepared for the U.S. Agency for International Development said that Cambodia lost an estimated $300 million to $500 million annually to various forms of corruption.

The independent anti-corruption watchdog group Transparency International perennially ranks Cambodia among the world's most corrupt countries. Its 2008 Corruption Perception Index Report placed the country at 169 out of 183.

The Foreign Ministry letter said that Rodley's statement was not in keeping with the good relations between Cambodia and the United States, and that the diplomatic corps "must maintain their neutrality and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Cambodia."


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