Sunday, July 08, 2007

Cambodian Poverty

Sunday Herald carries the sorry story of Cambodia .

More than 10% annual economic growth and a thriving textile sector but a corrupt elite become richer and a gaping chasm has opened between rich and poor. Transparency International rated Cambodia at 151 out of 163 nations in its government corruption index. The ugliest form of exploitation has been an epidemic of land-grabbing in which businessmen pay thugs or corrupt police to drive the poor from their homes so they can build on sites which are rocketing up in value.

In three years' time, massive offshore oil wealth will start to be pumped - perhaps as much as 500 million barrels but the returns will almost certainly flow into the pockets of the corrupt. The poor could then become even worse off because prices will be forced up as the economy grows.

Illegal logging of the once-beautiful and extensive forests has been another way for the rich to turn a fast buck. Last month watchdog group Global Witness castigated a clique around Hun Sen for making tens of millions of dollars out of logging.

The UN's Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia last month issued a report on land-grabbing, accusing the corrupt rich of having a devastating effect on the poor and driving tens of thousands from their homes into destitution.

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