US House of Representatives Wants Gov’t Aid Tied to Polls

The US House of Represent­a­tives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a resolution that recommends continuing to deny all US aid to the Cambodian government if elections scheduled for July are not deemed free and fair.

The House, which is the lower of two bodies in the US legislature, voted 393-1 to approve the resolution, which is non-binding action and does not equate to a law.

“[The House] states its unwillingness to accept as legitimate or as worthy of United States assistance any Cambodian government that arises from a fraudulent electoral process,” the resolution reads.

The resolution, if adopted by the whole Congress, apparently would not affect humanitarian aid, which has continued to flow from Washington since factional fighting broke out in Phnom Penh in early July.

Within a week of the July 5-6 fighting, the US suspended all non-humanitarian aid to Cambo­dia, about $26 million. An annual $13 million in US aid money continues to be spent here through NGOs.

The House resolution comes less than a week after the Euro­pean parliament called upon international donors only to give aid with specific conditions for free and fair elections.

According to a transcript of the House proceedings, one of the sponsors, Doug Bereuter, a member of the Republican party from the state of Nebraska, said Cambodia’s prospects for democracy were much better in 1993 when the UN sponsored a $2 billion election.

“We are headed for a noncredible, disastrous election unless the world community lets the Hun Sen regime know that we will not accept election results, that we expect better,” Bereuter said.

While it urges US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to continue to push for free and fair elections, the resolution cites “an ongoing atmosphere of intimidation” as preventing politicians from campaigning freely.

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