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Hun Sen To Seek Debt Forgiveness in New York

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday he will seek debt forgiveness from Barack Obama when he meets the US president in New York on Friday.

Hun Sen and other Asean leaders are expected to see Obama as part of the US-Asean summit, and the Cambodian premier has asked his staff to prepare a detailed argument for the reduction of more than $300 million in debt incurred prior to the Khmer Rouge takeover.

The money, borrowed by the US-backed Lon Nol regime, was “filthy debt,” Hun Sen said, inaugurating a new bridge in Phnom Penh on Monday. “How can filthy debt be repaid? Even a bank would cancel it.”

The US in the past has been reluctant to write off the amount. A US Embassy statement from Phnom Penh called it a “longstanding bilateral issue.”

“Under international law, governments are generally responsible for the obligations of their predecessors,” the embassy said, adding that US officials have made proposals to help resolve the issue.

“We hope than an agreement can be reached soon,” the embassy said. “Such an agreement would enhance Cambodia's creditworthiness and ability to access international capital markets.”