Cambodia is facing a cycle of continued aid dependency and corruption, with much of the money granted by the international community getting lost and little being done to curb the problem, an American filmmaker says.
Tim Sorel, who produced the short documentary “The Trap of Saving Cambodia,” told VOA Khmer that local and international NGOs are complicit in the nation’s corruption because they allow it or abet it.
The government is granted more than $1 billion in aid money each year from a host of countries, including the US and China. Much of it is lost to corruption or other malfeasance.
“There is a lot of nepotism, false contracts, and so the dollars that are meant to get to the poor and the impoverished never quite get there because they are being tied up in the system of corruption,” Sorel said.
However, some NGOs are starting to stand up to it and refusing to pay bribes or tolerate other forms of corruption, he said.
The film came after Sorel worked with a rural NGO to provide drinking water to rural Cambodians and found it had to bribe local officials in order to conduct its work.
“I was absolutely shocked by this,” he said. “It’s absurd.”
The 27-minute film follows the work of a leading NGO working to rally support for an end to widespread land grabbing in Cambodia. Rampant corruption in Cambodia has meant that thousands of families in both the cities and the countryside have been displaced.
“People are being herded like cattle onto trucks, driven 20 miles outside the city and dropped into a rice paddy,” Sorel said.
And while some observers have warned that these conditions could lead to social unrest or an uprising, Sorel said he doubts this will happen in the near future.
“I think the citizens are very tired,” he said. “They are exhausted. They just want peace and quiet in their lives right now, so I don’t think that there is enough spirit, if you will, right now in current-day Cambodia to have that kind of civil uprising.”