很多美国企业都打算进入这个市场，雪佛龙(Chevron)、福特(Ford)和通用电气(General Electric)早已到来。但目前即使是最积极主张进入这一市场的人们，对于当前是不是时候，也语焉不详。以康菲公司(ConocoPhillips)为首的蓝筹公司联盟——美国-东盟工商理事会(US-ASEAN Business Council)最近发布了一份公报，向会员们通报了柬埔寨的商业机会近况以及一些令人不安的报道。比如，大批抗议者们要求实施自由公平的选举，工厂安全措施不到位造成工伤惨剧，以及监管改革受阻等等。
有些人呼吁美国要增强在柬埔寨的参与度。美国战略与国际研究中心(Center for Strategic and International Studies)东南亚研究主任欧内斯特•鲍尔表示，鉴于柬埔寨正在与地区内的民主改革趋势背道而驰，当前美国的影响非常重要。他说，这个地区即将迎来“东盟之春”，独裁统治早已让位于“新兴的对于民权、治理和法制的期待”。柬埔寨是个例外，他说，柬埔寨陷于“政治动荡之中，应该引起邻国和东盟盟国，包括美国的担忧”。
Cambodia's promoters fanning out to money centers and markets worldwide pitch the Southeast Asian nation's economy as practically booming, a regional pivot point, and wide open for global business. Labor is cheap, land available, and natural resources ready for exploitation.
But the same country courting corporations ranks tenth as the most corrupt country on earth and scores just as high among human rights abusers, adding to the deep scars of its brutal past.
With Cambodian voters protesting this week's national election results -- the most controlled and corroded in the country's history -- the nation's leaders cannot evade the rampant scandals, economic hardship, and systemic corruption the campaign thrust into the spotlight. It's a laundry list that includes inhumane working and housing conditions for low-skilled workers in local and foreign-owned factories; violent "land grabs," forced evictions and unbridled transfers of Cambodian land to local and foreign investors; and the delayed prosecution of former Khmer Rouge leaders charged with enslaving, starving, and slaughtering some 2 million Cambodians during the 1970s Communist revolution.
Should those eyeing Cambodia's market simply factor these realities as costs of doing business in an emerging market?
American enterprises are poised to enter the country. Chevron (CVX), Ford (F), and General Electric (GE) are already there. But even advocates of moving into Cambodia equivocate on whether now is the right time to make a move. A recent communiqué from the US-ASEAN Business Council, a blue chip group chaired by ConocoPhillips (COP), updates members on commercial opportunities in Cambodia, along with reports about throngs of protestors pushing for free and fair elections, tragic worker fatalities due to unsafe factory conditions, and stymied regulatory reforms.
For American prospectors, considerations over whether to enter Cambodia may extend beyond the usual risk assessments. There's been a long lull in American involvement in the nation. From 1969 to 1972, Washington policymakers entrenched in the Vietnam War decided to broaden their targets. American B-52s dropped 540,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia; death toll estimates range from 150,000 to 500,000 civilians. The decision was highly contested, deeply regretted, and still a prickly point.
Currently, U.S. presence in Cambodia is largely aid-based, with investments in technical assistance, or "institution building." Last year, Washington extended $121.3 million in 2012 bilateral assistance for health, governance, education, and economic growth projects.
Some are calling for deeper engagement with Cambodia. U.S. influence is crucial now, as Cambodia bucks the democratic reform trend in the region, argues Ernest Bower, the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He says the region is on the cusp of an "ASEAN Spring" with autocracies already giving way to "new and rising expectations for empowerment, governance, and the rule of law." Cambodia, he says, is the outlier, mired "in political instability that should concern its neighbors and ASEAN partners, including the United States."
Disappointing leadership, extensive poverty
A "strong arm" leader and an early, avid member of the dreaded Khmer Rouge, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has sidelined, muzzled, and expelled his opposition during nearly 30 years of rule. International monitors routinely condemn Cambodia for unfair elections; this year, British monitors refused to return, saying the Cambodian government had yet to implement their recommendations after the last compromised election.
Hun Sen's powerful Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, says the Tribunal "demonstrate[s] Cambodia's commitment to the rule of law," and a new, novel approach to justice. Yet, by its own admission, Cambodia's judiciary is rife with extortion, bribery, and political influence peddling.