46 Cities Pass Up Francophone Conference

Forty-six of the 109 delegations invited to participate in the conference of the International Associa­tion of Francophone Mayors failed to arrive in Phnom Penh this week, a municipal official said Tuesday.

One municipal official, who asked not to be named, said, “Mayors and deputy mayors are afraid for their safety because the Cambodian situation is not reliable.”

He went on to say that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s removal of former Phnom Penh governor Chea Sophara was largely to blame.

Mayors and deputy mayors from 109 cities in 46 different countries were expected to gather for three days beginning Wednesday to discuss such matters as urban management and development and decentralization of government.

“Some cities sent letters notifying us of their absences. But many other cities didn’t reply. They all kept quiet about their absences,” said Dun Vibol, another municipal official who assisted in preparing for the conference.

Nak Tanavuth, director of international relations for the municipality, dismissed talk of security concerns and mayoral loyalty. Some mayors are just preoccupied by matters at home, he said.

Municipal Vice Governor Seng Tong, who was in charge of pre­parations for the conference, said Monday that the association was spending about $200,000 on holding its meeting in Phnom Penh.

“We are very proud that more delegations are coming to Cam­bo­dia…because it means Cambo­dia is a safe place for celebrations,” he said Monday, when a full turnout was still expected.

Seng Tong had also said that despite the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots, events like the conference were portents of increasing foreign investment.

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