Funcinpec Minister of Public Works and Transport Khy Taing Lim attacked a top CPP ministry official in a recent radio interview for negotiating a contract without his approval in 2001 that allows a company to collect tolls on National Route 4.
Broadcast on Funcinpec-operated Radio FM 90.5 last weekend, Khy Taing Lim accused Tram Iv Teuk, who serves as secretary of state at the ministry, of orchestrating the 30-year contract with AZ Distribution Co to maintain Route 4.
“It is clear that no contract was signed by me,” Khy Taing Lim told the radio station, which is also known as Ta Prohm. “They did not let Funcinpec know about the project.”
With the election less than three weeks away, the accusation revealed an internal dispute between Funcinpec and CPP officials in the ministry that has grown worse since the campaign season started. All three major parties continue to accuse each other of corruption in an attempt to win votes.
Under the terms of the disputed contract, AZ will expand the sidewalks, weigh the trucks and perform maintenance on the US-built highway. AZ will collect $7 for every taxi, $16 per bus, and more than $30 for trucks. “If there is slow traffic on this road and transportation costs are high, it will immediately effect the cost of living and the price of goods will increase,” Khy Taing Lim said.
In response, CPP-member Uk Chan, undersecretary of state at the ministry, said the contract with AZ was needed to maintain the road for years to come.
Route 4, initially built by the US in 1956, was resurfaced in 1995 after years of war and flooding. The 227-km road stretching from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville cost the US government nearly $2 million per kilometer to build, Uk Chan said.
Uk Chan said an average of 800 trucks, each weighing between 40 and 50 tons, use the road daily.
The government lacks funds to maintain the road, Uk Chan said, so a build-operate-transfer contract was drawn up. The Council for the Development of Cambodia approved the project and the Ministry of Finance set the rate for large trucks, he added.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Funcinpec is complaining about the contract only because its officials covet the money it generates.