U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video

Ask the Ambassador header banner
View All Transcripts: Ask the Ambassador | Ask the State Department

Welcome to "Ask the Ambassador" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to U.S. Ambassadors around the world.

 

U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph A. Mussomeli, discussed U.S.-Cambodia bilateral relations.

Joseph A. Mussomeli, U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia
Joseph A. Mussomeli
U.S. Ambassador to
Cambodia
Biography

Event Date: 1/11/2008


Martin in Turkey writes:

Mr. Ambassador: From your point of view, what are your predictions about U.S. & Cambodia bilateral relations in the near future? Also what are the ways that United States of America is trying to implement overcoming poverty in Cambodia? Thank you.

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Hello Martin. Your question was the first one I received, and it's a good one to start with. Over the last half century, relations between the United States and Cambodia have been, to use a diplomatic euphemism, “uneven.” Twice relations were severed entirely, and for a lengthy period from 1975 through 1991, we had no presence here at all. But over the last few years, the U.S.-Cambodia relationship has begun to warm, characterized by a broadening and deepening of ties between our two countries. While we do not always see eye-to-eye with the government of Cambodia, I fully expect this warming trend to continue. What allowed this to take place was a relaxing of Cambodia's political space beginning in January 2006: all political prisoners were released, the main opposition leader was allowed to return to the country and participate in the political process, and jail time was eliminated as punishment in defamation cases (which are usually only attempts to silence critics). Because of these and other positive steps, the U.S. was able to restore military-to-military ties, the U.S. Congress removed restrictions that prohibited us from directly funding Cambodian government projects, and we have seen a myriad of high level U.S. government officials visit Cambodia to meet with its leaders and civil society representatives.

As for helping Cambodia overcome poverty, the U.S. maintains a broad and vigorous assistance program that addresses many of the issues that affect this goal. During the last fiscal year, we provided approximately $70 million in funding for programs that focus on health, peace and security, good governance, education, human rights, and economic growth and development. Our assistance focuses directly at improving the lives and welfare of the Cambodian people. While other donors emphasize infrastructure, such as building roads, bridges, and schools, we instead build the capacity of the people themselves and seek to improve their health and prosperity. Any country's people, after all, are the most crucial element in any nation's development. No point in good roads and schools, if the people are too hungry, sick, or destitute to appreciate them. For more information on the full range of our programs, I invite you to visit the embassy's website.


Conrad in Florida writes:

Sir: What needs to be accomplished by both governments, The United States and Cambodia, to once again, obtain/to have full economic relations together? Thank you.

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Conrad, in fact the U.S. and Cambodia already have full economic relations. Cambodia recently has had one of the highest GDP growth rates in the world and has one of Asia's most liberal regimes for foreign investors. The country is finally becoming a focus for investment, and for the past several years, Americans have been re-discovering the Cambodian market. The recent opening of a $30 million canning factory by an American-affiliated company is just one example.

While I would like to see more U.S. investment in Cambodia, and I believe the government of Cambodia is committed to doing what needs to be done to encourage this, serious obstacles remain. The rule of law needs to become more central to Cambodian society and business. Improvements in infrastructure need to be accelerated. And, most crucially, corruption cannot be ignored. While some investments will come regardless of the level of corruption, Cambodia will lose a great many of its potential investors if it does not fiercely combat corruption. All countries have corruption -- including America -- but at the risk of sounding unfair, Cambodia cannot afford the luxury of corruption. It has already lost 30 years of prosperity to the nightmares of genocide and civil war, while its neighbors have rapidly developed. This fight against corruption, in turn, will engender even more confidence in the Cambodian marketplace, attracting further international investment in the country.


Martin in Germany writes:

Sir! What would you call the most important topic within the bilateral relations between the U.S. and Cambodia? What do you think can be improved in general?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Martin, your question is one that several people asked, and I can sum up the answer in three words: rule of law. This is a broad issue that includes challenges in Cambodia such as corruption, lack of transparency, and strengthening governmental institutions like the judiciary. Weak rule of law impedes everything that we are working to accomplish in Cambodia. On the economic development side, investors are leery of opening a business if they have to pay large bribes to government officials or if they can't rely on the courts to impartially enforce contracts. Corruption siphons away funds that should be going to support education, building infrastructure and providing health care. And weak governmental institutions have a negative impact on human rights by allowing practices like human trafficking and press intimidation to continue.

We are engaging the government, seeking reform-minded individuals and targets of opportunity, to stress why it is in Cambodia's interest to address rule of law. While building political will is never an easy task, I feel strongly that persistent engagement with the government and civil society is the best way to achieve a responsible, capable sovereign state that responds to the needs of its people.


Kurt in Utah writes:

I am trying to locate reputable Cambodian children's homes/orphanages to organize pen-pal programs with grade school children in the U.S. Is there a contact at the embassy in Phnom Penh whom I can work with on this?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Two organizations that my wife Sharon and I work closely with are the Maryknoll's Little Folks program and the Cambodian Children's Fund, but there are many other organizations that also do laudable work with children in Cambodia. Kurt, although the Embassy doesn't have a point of contact on this subject, I encourage you to search around on the internet to find an organization that meets your needs.


Seyha in North Carolina writes:

Sir: Given the recent success of the USS Essex port visit last year, would the military expand more humanitarian operations around the globe to improve U.S. government's image in the future?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

With a name like Seyha, you must be Khmer-American, so a hearty "chumreap suo" and "awkun" for participating in this discussion! (For non-Khmer speakers, that's "hello" and "thank you.") You are correct that the recent visit by the USS Essex was a success, a huge success in my book. The medical, dental and community programs that the ship's Sailors and Marines conducted, improved the lives of more than 10,000 people. But it was the attitude of the Cambodian people and government that was really stunning. Many of our military colleagues expressed amazement with how unusually open and helpful the government at all levels was. They literally opened up the entire country to the Essex's 30 helicopters that zigzagged across the country working with isolated communities throughout the land. While I can't speak on behalf of the U.S. military regarding their humanitarian operations around the globe, I can say that they intend to return to Cambodia. We are expecting a contingent of 20 Marine medical and dental specialists to conduct a 10-day program in the next few months, and we hope to have a U.S. Navy medical ship visit Cambodia sometime during the year. And of course, we announced just a few months ago that the U.S. military will be conducting $2.38 million in humanitarian assistance projects over the next year in Cambodia. All of this is just one more positive aspect of the U.S. military's re-engagement with Cambodia.


Ryan in Pennsylvania writes: What exactly do you do?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Ryan, are you really one of my staff members harassing me under a pseudonym? Once I track you down, you're fired! Seriously, you've posed the shortest question, so I'll try not to give a long winded answer. In short I serve as the "personal representative" of the U.S. President in Cambodia. As such I am responsible for all U.S. government activities in this country, and I provide the President -- through the Secretary of State -- with policy recommendations related to Cambodia. On a day-to-day basis this means I meet with lots (and lots) of people -- government officials, opposition leaders, civil society representatives, students, business people, and NGO workers. I go out to the provinces to visit U.S. government-funded programs and talk with the people being directly affected by the work we are doing. And of course, there are staff meetings! Only by interacting with the full range of Cambodian society and keeping abreast of embassy programs can I get a true picture of what's going on and provide the best possible policy advice.


Carpenter in Maryland writes:

What does the average Cambodian think about the U.S. government and the American people?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

To be honest, this is an issue that weighed on my mind as I was preparing to take up my duties as Ambassador here. I was a student in the late 60s and early 70s, and I remember all the negative press about U.S. involvement in Cambodia during that time. I fully expected Cambodians to harbor deep resentment against the U.S. and against Americans. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the U.S. is viewed positively by as much as 89% of the Cambodian population. Our positive ratings in Cambodia ironically are higher than our ratings in our own country! When I mention my surprise about this to older Cambodians -- those who lived through the horrors of the Khmer Rouge -- I often hear, "What the U.S. did might have been wrong, but what happened when you left was far worse." Cambodians have a deep respect for the American people and American values, and they genuinely appreciate our assistance efforts over the past 15 years. And the younger generation can't get enough of American culture. Most young Cambodians speak at least a little English, and I have not yet met a Cambodian who doesn't want to learn more English and learn more about America.


Kyle in North Carolina writes:

Hello Ambassador Mussomeli. What is America doing to help fight human trafficking in Cambodia and deterring American Citizens from engaging in it? Thank you for your service.

Ambassador Mussomeli:

As I am sure you know Kyle, human trafficking has a devastating impact on individual victims. I often remind Cambodian audiences of Gandhi's famous dictum about civilization: that determining how civilized a country is has nothing to do with how rich, democratic, educated, or powerful it is. Rather, the true mark of a civilized society is determined by how well the weakest and most vulnerable members of a society are treated. We are working hard to bring this cruel practice to an end in Cambodia and we do this in two ways. The first is through diplomatic discussions, such as pressing officials at the highest levels of the Cambodian government to pass and enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and make greater efforts to prosecute and convict public officials who profit from or are involved in trafficking. The second way is by providing millions of dollars in funding for programs that work with victims and those at-risk of being trafficked, or train government officials such as the police, judges and prosecutors on trafficking cases. In fact we just announced two new grants totaling more than $300,000 in this field.

As for deterring American citizens, you can be proud of your government's record on this issue. Under the PROTECT Act, it is illegal for Americans to travel abroad to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors, and the first three successful prosecutions under the act involved cases from Cambodia. In total, the U.S. government has prosecuted seven Americans for child sex crimes in Cambodia. We publicize these cases heavily, and word seems to be getting out that Cambodia is no longer a haven for people who prey on children that have often been trafficked specifically for sexual exploitation.


Chris in New York writes:

When I visited Cambodia this past summer, I saw how poverty stricken the nation was, but also how dependent the people are on foreign aid. At times it seemed to me that some people, particularly in Phnom Penh, felt because I was a foreigner that I somehow owed them money, resulting in aggressive and sometimes violent begging. Keeping in mind that the country is still getting to its feet after decades of genocide, what is the U.S. government doing to help Cambodians become more self-sufficient?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Chris, the experience you described is a common one in any poor country, and I sincerely hope it did not spoil your view of this country and its gracious people.

Your question relates closely to the one posed by Martin in Turkey. In my answer to him, I broadly described our assistance program, which is aimed at improving the lives of the average Cambodian. In order to make these improvements self-sustaining, all of our programs include capacity building elements. Whether it's strengthening institutions or training Cambodians, we strive to ensure that we not only address the symptom, but develop indigenous systems and capabilities that will allow the Cambodians to permanently solve the problem on their own. Unfortunately, not all assistance programs are constructed in this manner or with this purpose in mind. Some assistance has led to some Cambodians becoming overly dependent on foreign aid and foreign organizations. In a sense some organizations have interacted with Cambodians like members of a dysfunctional family: the children who never learn to fend for themselves and the parents who tenaciously strive to ensure that their offspring are eternally dependent upon them. But most organizations, and certainly the U.S. government, seek rather to help Cambodians develop the skills to increasingly help themselves.

This is clearly demonstrated by our economic development policies and programs. The U.S. is promoting economic growth in Cambodia by focusing on improving the business environment, encouraging the passage and enforcement of vital legislation (such as commercial trade facilitation legislation), identifying administrative and policy barriers, and fostering a demand for change. A good example is Cambodia's garment industry. In 1999, the U.S. offered Cambodia preferential quotas on garment exports to the U.S. if Cambodia agreed to follow strict labor standards. When the quota system ended in 2006, many predicted the end of the Cambodian garment industry. But because reforms had been institutionalized, Cambodia's excellent labor reputation convinced many American companies to continue sourcing from Cambodia despite higher costs. Today, Americans buy nearly $2 billion in garments from Cambodia annually, providing employment to more than 330,000 mainly young women from poor rural areas.


Ryan in South Carolina writes:

I would like to work for a U.S. Embassy, I was wondering what should I study in college, I am thinking International Politics, and what is the best route to working in an Embassy? I do not want to be an Ambassador just work under one. Thanks.

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Ryan, are you sure you don't want to be an ambassador? It is so much better having people do all your work for you rather than having to do it all yourself! More seriously, I never intended to be an ambassador either. In fact, most of my colleagues and certainly all of my family still don't quite believe it. I have been a diplomat for over 27 years, and I cannot imagine a more rewarding career: having the honor of serving the American people, advancing our interests, promoting our ideals and principles, and all the while getting the government to pay for your world travels. I certainly encourage you to pursue this interest. There are many different avenues to explore, with many U.S. government agencies represented in our embassies. In Cambodia, we have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, Peace Corps, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S.AID).

If you are interested in becoming a Foreign Service Officer, like I am, your first step should be to visit the State Department's "Careers Representing America" website. The State Department does not require any specific education level or academic major, so studying International Politics is a good choice if that is a subject that you find compelling. But any course of study is acceptable, though as a general rule applicants who have a great breadth of knowledge (as opposed to narrow and deep knowledge of one subject, like physics or math) generally fare better on the Foreign Service exam. What the U.S. government is looking for in its diplomats are qualities like composure, cultural adaptability, leadership, good judgment, and communication skills, and the State Department has developed an intensive selection process to identify these traits in applicants. You can read more about this process at the careers website, and I wish you every success in reaching your goal!


Timothy in California writes:

I understand that Cambodia will hold an election this summer of 2008. As an American who is planning to tour Angkor Wat/Cambodia, should there be any concern as far as safety/security? If so, at what level of security precaution should I take? Should I just not take my summer trip to Cambodia all together? Thank you.

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Timothy, thank you for this question. Cambodia's nation-wide commune council elections in April 2007 were conducted in a peaceful and orderly way, and I have no reason to believe that the upcoming elections this summer will be any different. While you will need to make your own decisions regarding your personal safety, I have been encouraging my own family members to come and visit Cambodia this summer before my appointment as Ambassador comes to an end. In many countries ambassadors have bodyguards, but not here. Almost everyday I walk unaccompanied around Phnom Penh, strolling my 3-year old son without fear of violence or harassment. While petty crime is a serious concern in Cambodia and it makes sense to always be careful everywhere these days, I don't see any special risk in visiting Cambodia this summer. Tourism in Cambodia provides good jobs for hundreds of thousands of people, and visitors are always impressed with all that the country has to offer: stunning ancient temples in Siem Reap, pristine beaches in Sihanoukville, the charm of Phnom Penh, and a warm, gracious, and hospitable people.


Tom in Australia writes:

How concerned is the U.S. over China's growing political and economic influence over Cambodia?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Tom, I hear this question often, and I can honestly say that China's involvement in Cambodia causes us little concern. As a small country surrounded by larger and more powerful neighbors, Cambodia of necessity must maintain good relations with its neighbors. As a regional power, it is normal that China seeks to advance its interests by actively engaging with Cambodia. The United States, as a global power, also works closely with Cambodia to further our own national interests, but there is no competition between us in Cambodia.

The only issue that gives me pause is Chinese foreign aid. Each year all the donor states, except China, work together to ensure that our assistance to Cambodia is well coordinated. It would be even better for Cambodia, I believe, if China decided to coordinate its assistance programs with all the other donors. The Cambodian Prime Minister is fond of saying that the Chinese give aid with "no strings attached," in contrast to Western aid, which comes with conditions. What I tell everyone is that all assistance comes with strings; all governments want to accomplish something in their own interests when they give another country money. When the U.S. provides assistance to the Cambodian government, we attach these “strings”: we expect the Cambodian government to fight corruption, to strengthen democracy, and to respect human rights. A stable and prosperous country that treats its citizens with dignity and respect is in the U.S.'s best national interests. We believe that these are the “strings” every government should demand when providing assistance to Cambodia.


David in Oklahoma writes:

Do Montagnard from Vietnam still seek to escape communist Vietnamese abuses via entry into Cambodia?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

David, Montagnards do still occasionally come to Cambodia seeking refugee status, but what we are finding more and more is that many are trying to relocate for economic reasons, not because of political persecution. For example, last November, Cambodia returned twenty-one applicants to Vietnam after both UNHCR and the U.S. (which can also consider cases under a different standard than UNHCR) interviewed them and determined they did not qualify for refugee status.


Wajih in Washington, DC writes:

What are you and your office doing to fight Islamist terrorism in Cambodia?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

As I'm sure you understand Wajih, terrorism is a global war. We need allies everywhere, and I'm pleased to say that Cambodia has been extraordinarily cooperative with the U.S. on this issue. With U.S. assistance, Cambodian security forces have improved their capability to monitor suspected terrorists, and the country destroyed its stock of SA-3 surface-to-air missiles to keep them from potentially falling into the hands of terrorists. The Cambodian security services have embraced the use of a U.S.-sponsored computer immigration control system at major border crossing areas and have adopted our watchlisting standards.

Additionally, Cambodia has many other notable counterterrorism accomplishments. In 2004, a Cambodian court convicted six terrorists, who were involved in a Jemaah Islamiya plot against western embassies, to life sentences, which have subsequently been upheld on appeal. The Cambodian National Assembly has ratified all twelve international counterterrorism conventions and protocols. The Cambodian government has also made progress on comprehensive counterterrorism legislation and established a National Counterterrorism Committee to serve as an integrated, national CT service.

Approximately 5% of the Cambodian population is Muslim (Cham). The Cham traditionally practice a very tolerant form of Islam, and are well-integrated into and accepted by the larger Cambodian society. Thus, the Cham do not feel the alienation and perceived sense of injustice that fuels terrorism elsewhere in the world. While the Cham are for the most part poor and need greater educational opportunities, it is really a sense of injustice rather than economic status that seems to precipitate terrorism. At the same time, we are concerned about the recent influx of less tolerant forms of Islam. A spiritual and social vacuum was created here in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge period when virtually all mosques were destroyed and nearly all educated Cambodians (including Cham) were killed. This vacuum, unfortunately, is increasingly filled with funding from radical groups that seek to impose a harsher interpretation of Islam on the Cham population.


Khieu writes:

How can you (the United States) do to help Cambodians people to have a real free election process in Cambodia? Thanks.

Ambassador Mussomeli:

The upcoming national elections offer Cambodia the opportunity to highlight the laudable progress the country has made in the transition from a post-conflict state to a transitional democratic nation. Cambodia has come a long way in only 15 years, though it still has a long way to go before it is a fully functioning democracy. As I mentioned earlier Khieu, Cambodia conducted commune council elections nation wide in April of last year, which were conducted in a smooth and orderly fashion. Of course we did note some areas for improvement such as unequal access to media by all the political parties and biased coverage during the pre-election period, non-transparent campaign finance issues and gift-giving, as well as the lack of a neutral appeals process to hear election-related complaints. Since last April we have consistently urged the Cambodian government, the National Election Commission, all political parties, and Cambodian civil society to work together to strengthen the electoral process in order to ensure free and fair national elections in 2008. And there have been some positive steps, such as a recent program to give radio time to all the parties.

As for financial support to the elections, the U.S. government is providing hundreds of thousands of dollars for such activities as political party poll monitor training, candidate debates, women's leadership forums, and organizational support for international and domestic election monitoring organizations. Finally, U.S. embassy staff will be deployed across the country to observe polling stations on voting day as well.


Kirirathana in Germany writes:

I think Cambodia needs more weapons for protecting her territory. Could the U.S. have interest on this issue and helping it, too?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Well Kirirathana, I would like to respectfully disagree with you on this issue. Cambodia has friendly relations with all of its neighbors, and the country faces virtually no military threats to its territory. The biggest threat that the Cambodian armed forces face is countering transnational criminal activities, including drug smuggling/manufacture and people trafficking. Cambodia is also very interested in contributing expertise to UN peacekeeping operations, particularly in the field of de-mining. Therefore, our military assistance programs seek to create a more capable and professional armed force to enhance border security and internal practices; enable effective participation in UN peace-keeping; and continue support for de-mining.


Derek in California writes:

Mr. Ambassador, as a Cambodian/American, I would like to see more of the U.S.A. involvement in Cambodia in all fields. Is there any chance that the U.S.A. could establish a permanent military base in Cambodia? Most Cambodians I talked to would like the United States to have a permanent military base there for the benefit of both people. Thank you, sir.

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Derek you sent me several questions, and I thought this was one of the most pertinent because there is a persistent rumor that the U.S. is looking to establish a military base in Cambodia. I would like to lay this rumor to rest by saying emphatically that no such plan exists. Despite the growing ties between our two militaries, there is no strategic reason for establishing a U.S. base in Cambodia. In fact, just the opposite is true. Over the past decade, the U.S. military has been consolidating its bases around the world to make them more efficient and to ensure U.S. troops are located where they are most likely needed. A base in Cambodia just simply doesn't fit in with this plan.


James in South Dakota writes:

Is Cambodia helping in the recovery of Americans killed in the Vietnam War?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

James, since we began our searches here in the 1990s, the Cambodian government has always considered this a humanitarian issue, and in my opinion, there is no country in the world that cooperates as closely with us on the recovery of American servicemen's remains as Cambodia. In fact, the head of the Defense Department's POW/MIA affairs told me during a visit last year, "We hold up Cambodian cooperation as an example to all the other nations that we work with." We are extremely grateful to the Cambodia government for its assistance in this field of activity, which, so far, has allowed us to account for 29 U.S. service members lost in Cambodia. In fact, we have a joint recovery mission going on in Cambodia even as I write this.


Jennifer in New York writes:

Where are you from?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Ugh, this may be the hardest question I've been asked. I was born in New York City, but have rarely lived there. My father served in the U.S. military for 34 years so we were constantly wandering from one city and country to another. I spent many years of school in New Jersey, and I pay my taxes in Virginia. I've never met a city or state in the United States I didn't like in one way or another. I consider America my home, but no particular place in America.


David in Texas writes:

I am interested in adopting a child from Cambodia. Everywhere I look on the Internet, I see conflicting statements about whether or not Cambodia is closed for adoption and how long it will take to reopen. Can you please confirm the present status, if adoption is still possible with correct paperwork and procedures, or when adoption will be possible again? Thank you very much.

Ambassador Mussomeli:

David, my predecessor said that his biggest regret was not being able to resolve the adoption issue before he left Cambodia. And while I am still hopeful, I may have the same regret when I leave this summer. I have my own 3-year old adopted son, Thomas, from the Philippines so this is an issue I am very personally committed to resolving. I would like to see as many other Americans as possible adopt children so they too can suffer through all those 3 am wake ups, diapers, and tantrums, just like I did!

The facts are that the then-Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) suspended the processing of adoption petitions for Cambodia in December 2001. The decision to suspend processing of adoption petitions for Cambodia was based on numerous concerns related to the fraud environment in Cambodia as well as the lack of a sufficient local legal framework and other safeguards to protect the children's best interests. Since then, the U.S. government has taken the position that it will not issue orphan visas to Cambodians until the Cambodian government has undertaken significant legislative and institutional reform to safeguard the interests of children, birth parents and adoptive parents and eliminate the possibility of fraud and other abuses. As my wife Sharon likes to say: When you have a system designed to find children for parents, there is always a risk of corruption. But when the system is designed to find suitable parents for children, the emphasis is on the right objective and there is less risk of corruption.

The moratorium only applies to the issuance of orphan visas to Cambodians. Some American adoptive parents may be able to obtain a different category of visa, known as an IR-2, for their Cambodian adopted children. However, the circumstances under which this is possible are extremely rare, and they apply only when the American parents have resided in Cambodia, with the child in their legal and physical custody, for at least two years. So, anyone wishing to adopt a Cambodian child must be willing to live in this country for at least two years. If you are considering this option, I strongly urge you to review all of the information on our website related to Cambodian adoptions and visit the embassy's Consular Section before proceeding.


Narak in Washington, DC writes:

What is the United States currently doing trying to expedite to judicial process in trying the former Khmer Rouge leaders, responsible for the millions of deaths from 1975-1979?

Ambassador Mussomeli:

Narak, several other people also asked about this subject, and it is one that haunts me. One of the greatest crimes of the 20th century has gone unpunished for 30 years. The Khmer Rouge systematically tortured, starved, and eradicated over 2 million fellow Cambodians, and now time is running out as the killers grow old and fade away. Patience is often a virtue, but it can also be a great impediment to justice. All those who died and all those who suffered: their deaths and their pain need to be vindicated. I have hosted literally thousands of Khmer Rouge victims and perpetrators at my home for special discussions on this matter. The U.S. strongly supports bringing to justice senior leaders responsible for the atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge regime. The United States believes there must be accountability for these atrocities, and welcomed the agreement between the United Nations and Cambodia to establish the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

We want to be in the position where we will be able to support the ECCC politically and financially. However, in order to do so, we need to believe, and the American people need to be shown, that the process will meet international standards. As I have said on many occasions, the only thing worse than having no trial, is having a trial that is a farce. We are encouraged by recent developments with the ECCC, and the Department of State is currently reviewing all the facts about the tribunal and its operations, including its capability of meeting international standards of justice. We are increasingly convinced that the government of Cambodia is genuinely committed to a fair and legitimate trial process.

In the meantime, the U.S. has not just sat on the sidelines doing nothing. We have provided more than $7 million in funding over the past decade for research to document the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Much of the evidence that will be presented during the trials will only be available because of this research. We have also just completed a one-year program to train Cambodian journalists on covering the proceedings of the ECCC to help ensure that the public will have access to relevant and useful information.


  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.