The plight of the 13 jailed Boeung Kak protestors was high on the agenda for newly inaugurated US Ambassador Willliam Todd when he met for the first time with Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong yesterday morning.
The meeting between Todd, who took up his post in April, and Namhong lasted just half an hour and coincided with the appeal hearing that saw the 13 Boeung Kak activists freed.
Speaking with reporters after the brief meet, Todd said he was watching the case closely.
“We will be keeping our fingers crossed, and we are waiting to see what will happen. But we are hopeful there will be a positive outcome and the 13 people will be released,” Todd said.
Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh told reporters that the US continued to express concern at the escalating situation of land disputes in Cambodia.
“We believe that Cambodia should define a clear set of property rights that all people can understand and know what their property rights are,” he said, reminding reporters of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call for the 13 to be released.
Also up for discussion yesterday was the US$400 million in Lon Nol-era debt that Cambodia still owes the US.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Koung told reporters that Namhong had requested that Todd renew moves to cancel the debt.
“The deputy prime minister asked the US to send delegates to Cambodia to discuss more with their Cambodian counterparts to find a solution that both parties can accept,” he said.
McIntosh said the debt was a longstanding bilateral issue.
“Under international law, governments are generally responsible for the obligations of their predecessors,” he said.
“We have proposed a process for resolving this issue and urge the Cambodian government to accept this offer. Clearing its arrears would enhance Cambodia’s credit-worthiness and ability to access international capital markets,” he added.