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Donors Pledge $690 Million in Aid Increase

International donors pledged $689 million in aid Wednesday, a 15 percent increase from last year, despite pressure from rights groups that aid be tied to better governance.

Elated Cambodian officials said they had received more than they expected and would spend the money on health, education and infrastructure.

Donors called for the passage of a long-stalled anti-corruption law and said they expected reforms to move faster with the added money.

China, which in past years has not participated in the consultative group meeting, contributed $91 million this year. Japan, Cambodia's largest donor, pledged $112 million.

The aid was tied to conditions pushing the government to pass an anti-corruption law that has been stagnant for years.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon told a local newspaper the amount of aid reflected donors' trust in Cambodia's financial management improvements.

"Why is the amount so much? Because the government has made a lot of effort for strengthening financial management, and the development partners saw our efforts," he said.

The consultative group is made up of 18 donors including the US, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the Asian Development Bank, the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank.

World Bank Country Director Ian Porter called the anti-corruption law "very important" for Cambodia's good governance issues and said donors wanted "to ensure that Cambodia continues to have a good record in terms of growth and poverty reduction."

"The reforms will move ahead faster, particularly areas related actually to…good governance," German Ambassador Pius Fischer told reporters after the meeting.

Mu Sochua, Sam Rainsy Party secretary-general, said donor countries should take responsibility when giving aid, "so that it will go to the Cambodian people."

Her concerns were echoed by others in the rights community, who see continued aid without restrictions as potentially harmful.

"I hope that this time the donor countries take the problem that is a concern to the whole country to the government and ask the government to show results according to the government's promises," said Kek Galabru, founder of the rights group Licadho.