Gov’t to Spend $1.2 Million on Asean Meeting

The government will shell out more than $1 million to host the upcoming Asean Inter-Parliament­ary Organization summit in Phnom Penh later this month, a top event organizers said Monday, a sum that critics said dwarfs previous host countries’ budgets and includes bloated expenses.

The government plans to spend about $1.2 million on 283 delegates from Asean and other nations expected for the Sept 12 to Sept 17 conference, said CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, deputy head of the National Assembly’s meeting organizing committee. The figure includes free accommodation and a trip to Angkor Wat.

“This spending is necessary and important to protect the Cam­bodian image and reputation,” Cheam Yeap said Monday. “We should pay this price for our national reputation.” The budget includes $100,000 for two chartered airplanes to fly delegates be­tween Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cheam Yeap said.

“All the parliamentarians from the other countries, they cannot walk or take the boat rides to Siem Reap. We have to give them good transportation to see our temple,” he said. Thirty-eight Cambodian lawmakers will also participate in the summit, he added.

In response to the budget’s detractors, he said, “We have a policy [in the National Assem­bly]…not to spend money on useless things. We are transparent on spending.”

Nonetheless, critics expressed skepticism. “This proposal is very high for a poor country like Cambodia to pay,” said opposition law­maker Son Chhay, who help­ed plan the meeting. “This conference is more about entertaining visitors than getting to the point.”

After calling colleagues in other countries, Son Chhay said he discovered that Indonesia spent $600,000 to host the AIPO meeting last year, and Thailand spent just $400,000 in 2001.

“If in this meeting, they present good recommendations and take measures to improve the role of the legislature, then I think that would be worth paying that money,” said Koul Panha, executive director of Committee for Free and Fair Elections. “But if not, it’s maybe useless.”

(Addition­al reporting by Kuch Naren)


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