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The U.S. Lifts the Ban on U.S. Military Aid to Cambodia, an Analysis

In early August the Bush Administration quietly announced the lifting of the ban on US military aid to Cambodia.

Cambodian Ambassador to the US, Ek Seriwath, said there are 3 reasons: 1. Cambodia signed the ICC treaty with the US; 2. Cambodia helped the US in capturing Hambali terrorists; 3. economic interests.

AFP reported that the Article 98 agreement was signed when US Secretary of Syaye Collin Powell visited Cambodia in June 2003. the Article 98 agreement is intended to protect US servicemen from the International Court.

The NY Times recently reported the US cuts aid to those countries that refused to sign the Article 98 agreement, prompting some countries to sign in exchange for US aid.

Speaking to reporters in Phnom Penh on 8/23/05, PM Hun Sen said the lifting of the ban on US military aid to Cambodia is a positive and sympathetic step. He added that Cambodia did not set any conditions in signing the agreement. But he said Cambodia will not need arms and ammunitions from the US. Instead military, engineering and medical training for its forces will be requested.

The Cambodian Ambassador said the US has plans to help Cambodia in military aid in four fields: Training special forces to counter terrorism, military officer exchange program, non-lethal aid, and information (intelligence) exchange on al-Qaida and JI.

However, some Non-Governmental Organizations criticize the ban lifting. Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said a sovereign Cambodia should not be pressured to sign the Article 98 agreement in exchange for US military aid. The US should not change its policies before Cambodia commits itself to concrete military reforms.

Mrs. Khek Galabru of Licadho said she supports the US military aid only if it's intended for training and development and modernization of Cambodia's armed forces.

It is not clear when the US military aid to Cambodia will actually start.