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In Visit, Clinton Signals Support for Youth, as Well as the Tribunal

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, and the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Carol Rodley stand in front of the Royal Palace on Monday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an official visit to Phnom Penh on Monday, affirming US support for the Khmer Rouge tribunal and meeting with a group of students.

Clinton said Monday the she personally wanted to see the UN-backed tribunal reach speedy trials for jailed Khmer Rouge leaders, after touring the Tuol Sleng genocide museum.

“So I will be personally reaching out to help raise the money that is needed,” she said.

The tribunal has been dogged by financial problems, especially on the Cambodian side of the hybrid court. The US has so far given $7 million to aid the tribunal, which successfully tried Tuol Sleng prison chief Duch earlier this year.

Clinton also met with Cambodian students at a “town hall” meeting on Monday, where she fielded questions regarding China and other political points.

“It is smart for Cambodia to be friends with many countries and to look for opportunities to cooperate with many countries,” she said in response to a question on Cambodia's growing ties with China. “China is a great country, and China has a very exciting future, and there are certainly many reasons for Cambodia to have a good relationship with China.”

Analysts say China's influence in Cambodia has expanded, thanks in part to large aid packages and projects. These packages have come without the benchmarks or conditions often imposed by Western donors, increasing China's sway here.

Clinton also said Cambodia could find creative means of repaying more than $400 million in debt incurred during the Lon Nol regime. Debt forgiveness is a major sticking point for the Cambodian government in talks with the US.

Clinton's talk with the students was to “promote an even better understanding of the United States and our shared values,” the US State Department said in a statement.

“You have an opportunity to rewrite the future,” Clinton told a audience of 500 students. “It will be up to the young people to decide how to change that new future.”

“We want to help Cambodia establish a new era of opportunity,” she said. “So that you do not fear for the future but you look forward to it. You find good jobs, you develop your talents and you make your contribution.”