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Foreigners Questioned Over Protest as Donor Meetings Begin

Two days of donor meetings beginning in Phnom Penh Tuesday were preceded by the detention of eight foreigners near the meeting site at Wat Phnom for alleged unauthorized protest.

The eight, including three Americans, were questioned Tuesday at police headquarters in Phnom Penh, after calling for the release of Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun, two men serving long prison sentences for a murder rights workers believe they are innocent of.

The detained foreigners—described as NGO and church workers and tourists—were seen driving two trucks with signs calling for justice for the two detained men.

Police said the hanging of such signs amounted to protest, for which the eight had not been given permission.

Meanwhile, talks got underway Tuesday by donor countries to determine the amount of aid the country will receive in the upcoming year.

Last year, donor countries gave more than $600 million in aid, and the government said ahead of the meetings it expected about the same this year. But the meetings come as Cambodia faces a rash of criticisms, especially for stopping increasing land snatches by corrupt officials or unscrupulous speculators.

The government has also come under fire for illegal logging and continued corruption.

Ahead of the meetings, donor representatives said they were concerned with the slow pace of corruption reform, particularly the stalled passage of a proposed anti-corruption law.

"The problem remains mostly in the larger issue of the rule of law, whatever the corruption or judicial reforms, things like that continue to be a problem," US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said.

World Bank Country Director Ian Porter said at the start of the meetings the formation of an anti-corruption law should be a high priority for the government and donors.

In response to these concerns, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the law was an "important issue" and now was an "opportune time" to address it.

However, the prime minister has promised quick passage of the law in the past, without results. He avoided giving a time frame for the law's passage.