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Congressmen Mull Cambodian Debt Forgiveness

On a return from a trip to Asia that included Cambodia, US congressman Joseph Cao said in Washington last week he and his delegation are considering writing legislation to forgive Cambodia debt from the 1970s.

Cambodia owes about $300 million to the US from the Lon Nol regime.

Cao, a Republican from Louisiana, told reporters he and his Democratic colleagues, representatives Hike Honda of California and Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, want to see that money reinvested “to improve the lives of the Cambodian people.”

All three men visited Cambodia earlier this month.

Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Cambodia has sought debt forgiveness from the US “for a long time.”

So far, China, Hungary and the International Monetary Fund had forgiven Cambodia its debt, he said, “and up to today we have heavy debt only for Russia and the US.”

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the forgiven debt could be used to improve health centers, medicine and medical personnel in communes and districts and to provide free health services.

Meanwhile, children continue to abandon their educations, thanks to the sector’s small annual spending, he said.

Cao said his group may also consider draft legislation to help Cambodia rid itself of unexploded ordnance and mines.

The delegation also spoke to opposition officials about human rights violations and “issues concerning a fair election,” Cao said Wednesday.