Cambodia still faces a number of challenges in building up the private sector for investment, two opposition officials said Monday, following comments by a US senator who wants to see more trade.
Limited freedom of expression and suppression of the opposition, as well as issues such as unemployment, an economy in decline and low standards of living, all hurt Cambodia’s investment climate, Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann and Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha told “Hello VOA.”
Last week, Sen. Jim Webb made a swing through Cambodia, saying he would like to see more US investment, now that trade restrictions have been lifted and the two countries enjoy warming relations.
“The stance of the Human Rights Party is to find a peaceful solution through elections in 2012 and 2013,” Kem Sokha said. “We want a free and fair election, with US observers to monitor from the beginning.”
Yim Sovann said Webb’s visit—part of a five-country, Southeast Asian tour—demonstrated US concerns for democracy at a time when Cambodia’s political development was facing serious issues.
“This was a well-planned trip for the strengthening of democracy and multi-liberal parties for Cambodia,” he said.
Kem Sokha noted a trend in US foreign relations to engage with dictatorships and undemocratic countries, in what were efforts to solve problems from the inside. He also noted Cambodia’s garment-heavy trade relationship with the US.
Yim Sovann called the visit of the US senator a “warning” for Cambodia to remove trade obstacles like corruption and bureaucracy.
Webb, who made a one-day stop to Cambodia, is chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.