Op-ed on “Aid to Cambodia rarely reaches the people it’s meant to help”

Email from Mr. Sim Vireak to Mr. Joel Brinkley on “Aid to Cambodia rarely reaches the people it’s meant to help

April 19, 2011

Mr. Joel Brinkley,

I read our article which appeared on Washington Post entitled “Aid to Cambodia rarely reaches the people it’s meant to help”. It was published on 17 April coinciding with the anniversary of fall of US-supported Lon Nol’s regime and the beginning of genocidal Pol Pot regime in Cambodia.

I can feel your compassion toward Cambodia and the values you are upholding as an American. Unfortunately, your sadistic love—a remembrance of the mentality of White Man’s Burden— is blindfolding you and stopping you from accepting the reality in Cambodia.

If you perceive that journalism is to make thing sensational, please ignore my letter. However, if you are abiding by journalist professionalism whose commitment is to project fact, I insist that you should bring more balanced facts about Cambodia to American public, not the distorting image of a barbarian world you are beholding.

I have two points to raise.

First of all, you should at least provide American public a short explanation about aid mechanism—how the projects are being funded, who are handling the projects, the function of USAID, etc.—before you explained them about corruption in official assistance. Then American public can judge for themselves how nonsense it is that Cambodian government can manipulate American taxpayers’ money. I believe American and other foreign governments have more qualified aid experts than Cambodia does, and they are not that stupid in letting their taxpayers’ money being abused.

Secondly, please awake from your coma of the White Man’s Burden. Your distorted view does not help. In fact, it is an insult to Cambodian people, whom you are projecting as ignorant victims. Cambodian people know the PAIN of 30 years’ war more than you do. We are still conscious enough to understand what is the GAIN after 30 years of erection from ash. We know the PAIN of how to build the country from scratch, and our current shortcomings are the daily PAIN we are all trying to overcome.

My country has many shortcomings as does many other developing nations. However, we are not trying to excuse ourselves from doing less. We are trying to improve ourselves with support from our PARTNERS not our BOSS(es) or self-appointed SAVIOR(s). Don’t preach us about RIGHT or WRONG. Before you question Cambodian government’s handling of development, you should ask American people what is SO RIGHT about spending nearly USD 400 million A DAY for war in Iraq? And what is SO WRONG about writing off the similar amount of debt that the US claimed Cambodia owed during the turbulent era of American’s presence in 1970s?

My final message is simple: You have the liberty to tell the world about Cambodia’s shortcomings but if you’re trying to help, please don’t describe a TREE as FOREST.

Sim Vireak
First Secretary
Royal Embassy of Cambodia
8-6-9 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052

The views expressed are his alone and do not reflect the views of the Royal Embassy of Cambodia.

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