First lady Michelle Obama speaks to Cambodian school girls last week:

Cambodian dictator Hun Sun has criticized Mrs. Obama for suggesting

the U.S. would pay to educate girls and leaving Cambodia to foot the bill.



Cambodian Leader: Michelle Obama 'Makes False Promises' (Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia)


Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen has issued some unusually blunt criticism of the first lady of the United States after she visited the country to promote her pet project 'Let Girls Learn.' The state-run Phnom Penh Post published this column – which would never have seen the light of day without his office's approval – in which Sen says that Obama and the United States have suggested that financial help would be provided for selected Cambodian school girls, only to leave the Cambodian government to foot the bill.


By Tat Oudom and Vong Sokheng


March 27, 2015


Cambodia - Phnom Penh Post - Original Article (English)

Prime Minister Hun Sen took aim at Michelle Obama yesterday, accusing the U.S. first lady of making false promises and suggesting her visit last weekend was more about hopeful rhetoric than implementing concrete improvements in Cambodia's education sector.


During a speech at the National Institute of Education, Hun Sen told the U.S. Embassy and USAID to make good on scholarship promises and front some actual money if they truly wanted to have an impact on education reform in Cambodia. The prime minister was referring to Michelle Obama’s visit to the country last Saturday during which she met ten female students in Siem Reap as part of the White House' “Let Girls Learn” initiative.


“Her [Obama’s] mission is very good, but I suggest that the United States help more fully and not play around like this,” he said. “This is just playing around - it is not good. What if she chose 300 students? It would be death. I don’t have that money to give.”


Hun Sen’s comments came after Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday requested state university scholarships for the ten girls whose education through grade 12 is being funded by the NGO Room to Read.


Hun Sen said he provided each student with $1,500 per year toward four years at the university, but said he was under the impression the United States would foot the bill for the girls' education. Now, he said, the Cambodian Ministry of Education was left to pay.


“I thought the United States would give scholarships to these students until they completed university, but that’s not [the case],” Hun Sen said. “I had strongly hoped [that was the situation], but she just came here just to choose people and then [left paying] it to the Ministry of Education.”


The prime minister said it wasn't his intention to slight the United States, but that he is concerned that the Let Girls Learn initiative was simply a way for the U.S. to take credit for reform as it publicly criticizes the Cambodian government.

Posted By Worldmeets.US,


“I am sorry … but that is my opinion,” said Hun Sen. “In the long term it will become a political matter. In the future the children will say that the U.S. assisted them in completing university, while Hun Sen will be known as a man who doesn't [help].”


U.S. Embassy spokesman Jay Raman yesterday denied Michelle Obama had made any pledges regarding scholarships, stressing that the Let Girls Learn initiative was primarily focused on breaking down barriers to education by promoting awareness about the inequality of access.


Raman also stressed that “it’s not just about awareness, but also action, particularly through USAID programs that support girls’ education and at the community level through our Peace Corps. volunteers and their local counterparts.”


Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, reiterated the symbolic value of Obama’s visit, saying that Hun Sen’s comments would provide no positive results for Cambodia’s ailing educational sector.


“I think Michelle Obama’s visit was of high value for Cambodia, and reminded the country to pay strong attention to education,” he said. “The comments made by Prime Minister Hun Sen will not benefit Cambodia, and he should not have used a mocking tone, despite the fact that the [program] will not provide [direct] access to university. He is the prime minister; he must take responsibility for education.”

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[Posted By Worldmeets.US, March 27, 2015, 9:15am]





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