Tuesday 05 Jul 2022 | 08:03 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 05 Jul 2022 | 08:03 | SYDNEY

Watching our Cambodian aid dollars

28 March 2012 14:01

There are indeed good reasons for asking, as James did yesterday in reply to my piece, how the Angkor Archaeological Park (above) spends the entrance fees it charges foreign visitors. Eric Campbell's investigation of this issue for ABC TV raised many still-unanswered questions.

That said, there is a pressing need for additional funds to be allocated to cope with what has now become a mass tourist destination, and an Australian gift of the order of $1 million is no bad thing, even if issue of corruption attends the administration of the Park, as with so much else in Cambodia. Constant maintenance is required to maintain the temples, as is the presence of guards to prevent further theft of cultural artifacts.

Understanding all does not necessarily mean forgiving all, but it's worth remembering that, whatever was the case forty or so years ago, Cambodian pride in the Angkor temples is now widely held. In these circumstances, the gift seems both appropriate and likely to have been well received. If it goes some small way towards ameliorating the problems caused by mass tourism, so much the better.

If there are grounds for concern about Australian gifts to Cambodia in light of the country's reputation for endemic corruption, the announcement that the Government is contributing a further $1.61 million to support the work of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (ECCC) certainly is a basis for it.

Since its inauguration, the tribunal has been beset by allegations of corruption, few if any of which have been satisfactorily rebutted, with many of these explored in my Lowy Perspectives paper, 'The Khmer Rouge Tribunal: An Ambiguous Good News Story', as long ago as August 2007, and in subsequent postings on The Interpreter.

More recently, and following the resignation of two international judges, the UN has expressed deep concern about the way the tribunal is functioning at a time when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has made clear his adamant opposition to further indictments being brought down against prominent figures in the former Khmer Rouge regime. And, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald today, one of these individuals was directly involved in an Australian citizen being sent to the notorious Tuol Sleng or S-21 extermination centre.

Photo by Flickr user manning999.