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Gov't Optimistic on This Year's Aid Disbursement

Government officials said Monday ahead of this week's donor meeting they were optimistic aid would continue to flow, despite recent criticism from human rights and advocacy groups.

The Cambodian government will be looking for $600 million from countries including the US and Japan, to support its national budget in two days of meetings that begin Tuesday.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told VOA Khmer that donor countries will give the amount that the government has asked.

"We think that we will get the amount of aid that we have asked for," he said.

The government's confidence comes in the wake of serious accusations of abuse and corruption, including a forestry report by Global Witness that links illegal logging to Prime Minsiter Hun Sen, his cabinet and a powerful "kleptocratic elite." The report, whose findings the government denies, also reprimanded donors for failing to use aid as proper leverage for governmental responsibility.

Other critics say the aid given Cambodia each year does not reach its intended agencies, but instead slips into the coffers of corrupt officials.

Opposition legislator Yim Sovan said donor countries should push harder to abolish corruption and reduce poverty, while pressuring the government to solve a land-grab problem that has grown worse as Cambodia develops. Meanwhile, the government has continually failed to pass an anti-corruption law.

"Up to now, all the promises have no meaning, because up to now, the anti-corruption law has not been in place, so the international community should be aware of this issue," he said. "It should do something to help the government make an anti-corruption law."

Since 1993, the annual donors meeting has elicited promises from Cambodia's leaders that are rarely kept, said Kek Galabru, founder of the rights group Adhoc.

"So I think that this year, I still think there is no change from last year," she said.