Chamber Post Safe for Tycoon

Despite allegations of fraud and a warrant for his arrest in Thailand, tycoon Teng Bunma is in no danger of losing his post as president of the Phnom Penh Cham­ber of Commerce, a chamber board member said Monday.

“The fact is the Thais have to prove he is guilty,” said the board member. “Until then, we just keep calm.”

Reaction to the reports of the charges was muted Monday. Government officials claimed they had no knowledge of the case beyond what they had seen in the press. Other leading members of Cambodia’s business community said Teng Bunma’s problems were “personal” and would have no initial impact on the Chamber of Commerce.

The Far Eastern Economic Re­view magazine revealed last week that Thai police had issued a ­warrant in June for Teng Bun­ma’s arrest. He is accused of fraud for allegedly providing false information to obtain a Thai na­tional identity card and passports under two different names. He is also a Cambodian national and carries a Cambodian diplomatic passport.

His company, the Thai Boon Roong Group, is also re­port­edly under investigation in Hong Kong for using false documents to register his company.

Teng Bunma could not be reached for comment Monday. A spokeswoman for the Chamber of Commerce said she did not know his current whereabouts but an official at the Cambodia Mekong Bank, part of his business empire, said the tycoon was in Phnom Penh.

Prak Sokhonn, an adviser to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, with whom Teng Bunma has close ties, declined Monday to com­ment on the case.

Interior Mi­ni­stry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Monday that Thai­land has not officially notified Cam­bodia or sent any information about the case. His only knowledge, he said, stems from what he has seen in the press.

Sum Manit, a CPP official close to the office of Hun Sen, on Mon­day declined to speculate on Cam­­bodia’s response if Thailand asked for assistance, citing lack of knowledge of details of the allegations. But analysts said Monday there is no obligation for Cambo­dia to help. Cambodia would not hand Teng Bunma over to Thai authorities, they said, because he is a Cambodian citizen.

The chamber’s deputy president, Kong Triv, on Monday

de­clin­ed to comment on the charges, which he also called “personal problems.”

The Chamber of Commerce, which is under the authority of the Commerce Ministry, would only meet to discuss removing Teng Bunma from the president’s post if he was arrested and convicted, the board member said.

Teng Bunma’s holdings in­clude the Olym­pic Market building and the Regency Square de­velopment where the Hotel Inter-Con­tinental is located.

He was three years ago elected president of Cambodia’s first Chamber of Commerce since 1975.

Since then he has been no stranger to controversy. Last year, Teng Bunma’s visa to enter the US was revoked by the US embassy in Phnom Penh after evidence surfaced of his involvement in drug trafficking—allegations which he has denied.

In April 1997, he shot out the tire of a Royal Air Cam­bodge plane after a dispute over lost luggage. Three months later, Teng Bunma reportedly brandished a gun on an Orient Thai flight demanding that the crew hold the plane for some of his friends who were late for the flight. He was not charged in either incident.





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