Hun Sen Says Reparations Will Be Paid

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday announced that compensation owed to the Thai government for damage to the Thai Embassy sustained during the riots of Jan 29 will be paid in full this week. Government officials said that close to $6 million could be transferred to Bangkok as soon as today.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for a new pagoda in Kompong Chhnang province, Hun Sen described his government’s haste to settle the outstanding debt.

“After the Thai government gave their statement of the exact money owed, the [Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok] clearly asked the Royal Thai government for their account number as soon as possible, in order that we can transfer money into that account,” the prime minister said during his hourlong speech.

“I told our foreign minister not to even ask for a reduction of one cent. We will pay the damages with no conditions. It is our re­sponsibility,” Hun Sen added.

Speaking in Bangkok, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shina­watra on Sunday verified Hun Sen’s statement. “It is over, there are no conditions. The money transfer will be Monday,” Thaksin said.

Thaksin declined to state the exact figure being paid, but Prak Sokhonn, deputy chair of the Cambodian commission on normalizing bilateral affairs with Thailand, said it was just under $6 million. “The Thai Foreign Ministry sent a statement of damage to the embassy and to diplomatic concerns of $5,923,633,” he said.

The government’s action belies a statement made by National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh last week, who said Cambodia would be unable to repay the Thai government due to lack of funds.

“I hope the government will not simply go out and get loans,” Prince Ranariddh told Reuters on Thursday.

Prak Sokhonn rejected Prince Ranariddh’s assertion. “The proof is that the full amount will be transferred tomorrow or the next day—the delay is just a matter of technical procedure because the banks are closed [on Sunday].” He declined to comment on where the funds for the $5.9 million bank transfer were to come from.

Cambodia’s debt to the Thai government will be settled by a single payment, but compensating private businesses will be a far more complicated and prolonged process, Prak Sokhonn cautioned.

The Bangkok Post on Friday published a list of compensation claims made by the Thai-owned businesses whose property was damaged by a mob of young Cambodian demonstrators on Jan 29. Of the 33 companies listed, the top claim was $11.8 million, from Modern Plastic and Packaging. Cambodia Shinawatra claimed $8.5 million, while the Royal Phnom Penh Hotel’s damages were asserted at $6.3 million.

The total compensation claimed by the private sector comes to $48.5 million, according to the Post.

Hun Sen referred to these claims only briefly in his speech on Saturday. “For other companies, we’ll pay later,” he said.

Prak Sokhonn said the process would require examination. “We must first compare estimates of damage from the Thai and Cambodian sides, as we cannot give what has not been lost,” he explained. “Secondly, we must study each claim on a case by case basis.”

“It will be a long process,” he added.

Hun Sen on Saturday emphasized that compensation would also be paid to Cambodians whose property was damaged in the riots, as well as Thais.

“Next week…we will also pay for the houses of 49 Khmer people whose houses were burned down” when a fire at a Thai-owned factory raged out of control. “We [do] not only pay for Thai people,” the prime minister said.

(Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse)

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