The U.S. Is Demanding Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Repayment from a Country It Helped Decimate

Cambodian officials are outraged their former allies refuse to forgive their war debt.

Photo Credit: Arthur Simoes / Shutterstocks

The Vietnam War may get all of the attention over 40 years later, but the United States continues to avoid responsibility for multiple 1970s-era attacks on Southeast Asia, including its secret bombing of Cambodia, which dropped "500,000 tons of explosives on Cambodia's countryside." Now, as the Sydney Morning Herald reports, the United States is requesting repayment of loans to Cambodia following the 1973 attacks. 

The $500 million in loans "started out as a $274 million loan mostly for food supplies to the U.S.-backed Lon Nol government but has almost doubled over the years as Cambodia refused to enter into a re-payment program." Why doesn't Cambodia want to repay the loan? It might have something do with the 500,000 Cambodian citizens, including countless children, who were killed in the bombings. The attacks also paved the way for the Khmer Rouge to proceed with a genocide that killed nearly two million people through forced labor, starvation, and outright execution.

As war correspondent James Pringle told the Herald, "It felt like the world was coming to an end."

The current U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia believes the country should simply pay the loans back, telling Cambodia Daily, "To me, Cambodia does not look like a country that should be in arrears…buildings coming up all over the city, foreign investment coming in, government revenue is rapidly rising." To that, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen responded, "The U.S. created problems in my country and is demanding money from me...We should raise our voices to talk about the issue of the country that has invaded other (countries) and has killed children."

Sen's 30-year rule of Cambodia has been marked by accusations of human rights abuses, corruption and the stifling of democracy. He's claimed, according to Australia's ABC news, an "opposition election win could lead to the return of civil war." Still, even Pringle, who described himself as no fan of Sen, called his response to the U.S.' request for repayment as "absolutely correct...Cambodia does not owe a brass farthing to the U.S. for help in destroying its people, its wild animals, its rice fields and forest cover." 

Read the full story in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.

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