Cambodia urges US to void $339m debt
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Cambodia asked the United States yesterday to cancel $339 million in debt that dates to loans from the 1970s or consider converting most of it into development aid for the impoverished country.
The proposal, which was made during a visit by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel, was the latest in a long-running exchange about how to handle the debt and how the money was used 40 years ago.
“Cambodia has asked the United States government to cancel the debt, but if it cannot do that, at least turn 70 percent of the debt into aid for the social development of the country,’’ Deputy Foreign Minister Ouch Borith said after the meeting. If the latter option were accepted, he said, Cambodia would discuss repayment plans.
Marciel, who is Washington’s ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, later explained to reporters that the debt could be waived only if Congress authorizes it.
The low-interest loans financed agricultural commodities during the regime of General Lon Nol. Lon Nol’s regime was toppled by the genocidal Khmer Rouge movement in April 1975.
Cambodia’s government says the money was also used to buy weapons and support that war, which caused great suffering to the Cambodian people,’’ Ouch Borith said.
The countries have not set a repayment plan, in part because the Cambodian government refuses to accept responsibility for debts incurred by the Lon Nol regime and because they disagree over the amount owed.