By Hassan Kasem
The article, “Trade Visit Shows Other Side of U.S.-Cambodia Ties,” (July 16, page 1) would lead most average Cambodians to question whether the U.S. means what it says on human rights violation issues.
The article pointed out that while members of the U.S. Congress are trying to help desperate Cambodians improve their living standards by speaking out against a government riddled with corruption, nepotism, cronyism and grafts, the U.S. ambassador meanwhile was “pushing” a greater trade link.
While there is nothing wrong for money-oriented people wanting to multiply profits or increase shares at a private level, a U.S. official promoting trade in Cambodia’s present environment sends a wrong signal to the hard-pressed majority Cambodians. This brings us to the question: “How much does America care about human rights abuses in Cambodia?” The idea that attracting more investors and bringing in more business opportunities will result in trickle-down economics has never materialized in Cambodia.
The country has experienced economic growth for years between 5 percent and 7 percent, but the Gallup Wellbeing-World in 2012 showed that only 4 percent of the people surveyed were found to be “thriving,” up from 2 percent in 2011, while 34 percent were found to be “suffering,” up from 26 percent in 2011.
Since operating a successful business in Cambodia depends on connections with government officials, no local company can survive without being involved in some form of kickbacks to maintain its bottom line.
We understand that an ambassador has to look after U.S. interests overseas, hence promoting business investment. However, promoting an expedient business approach undermines the U.S. stance and resolve for human rights respect around the world.
Hassan Kasem, Washington
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