NPR logo Clinton Hints At Forgiving Cambodian War Debt; Urges Leaders To Improve Rights


Clinton Hints At Forgiving Cambodian War Debt; Urges Leaders To Improve Rights

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks at a wall of faces of those killed by the Khmer Rouge regime during a tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly the regime's notorious S-21 prison. Evan Vucci/Pool/AP hide caption

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Evan Vucci/Pool/AP

The United States is willing to discuss forgiving Cambodia's Vietnam War-era debt, says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The U.S. government has previously insisted on repayment of the debt.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports:

At a town meeting, Cambodian students asked her about the debt issue.

"If the government of Cambodia is willing, I will send a team of experts and we will explore different ways to try to approach this," Clinton said.

The United States lent about a quarter of a billion dollars to the Lon Nol government, as it crumbled before the Khmer Rouge during the 1970s. The loan, with interest, now amounts to more than $440 million. Clinton suggested that the money to pay off the loan could now be diverted to pay for education or environmental protection in Cambodia.

Clinton also urged Cambodia's leaders to improve their country's human rights record, and to make sure the Khmer Rouge are brought to justice for crimes against humanity in the 1970s.

Clinton stopped in Phnom Penh as part of her tour through Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Her trip to Cambodia has included visits to both the ruins of Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex and the genocide museum at the Khmer Rouge-era Tuol Sleng prison.

The Khmer Rouge regime is blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people, from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.