Hun Sen Threatens To Merge Finance, Commerce Ministries

Senior officials from the Minis­try of Finance and the Ministry of Commerce declined to comment Monday on a threat by Prime Min­ister Hun Sen to combine the two if they fail to resolve an ongoing conflict between customs and Cam­control officials.

During a speech Thursday, the prime minister said the conflict be­tween the Ministry of Fi­nance’s cus­toms and excise de­part­ment and the Ministry of Com­­merce’s import and export in­spec­tion and fraud repression de­partment, known as Camcon­trol, regarding their competing areas of jurisdiction, was giving him a “headache.”

He ordered both departments to reach a solution or else.

“Your relationship is giving the premier a headache…. If you are stupid, let us combine both ministries together to end [the problems] faster,” Mr Hun Sen said, adding that neither department could guarantee the quality of goods imported alone.

And while the government will continue, directors of department can always be changed, he added.

“Sometimes there can be different directors but the Prime Minis­ter and the government are the same.”

Wrapping up his speech, the premier dissuaded ministry officials from discussing further the problems between customs and Camcontrol.

“If the prime minister has al­ready commented it is not important to provide more [information]. It is the prime minister’s bus­iness, which is not your business,” he added.

Neither Mak Pichrith, director of Camcontrol, nor Pen Simon, dir­ector of the Customs and Exercise department, could be reached for comment Monday.

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said he was too busy to an­swer questions before he hung up the phone. Finance Minister Keat Chhon could not be reached for comment.

Deputy director for Camcontrol Klouk Chuon said he couldn’t provide more information on the dispute because “it is a very sensitive issue,” but that the Ministry of Fi­nance has been working on finding a solution.

“[We] have the confidential mech­anisms between the Minis­try of Commerce and Ministry of Finance, and this is a minor problem,” Mr Klouk Chuon said.

“If [Mr] Hun Sen said so, we always take action. Normally, if there is a mistake, it always has a solution,” he added.

SRP president Sam Rainsy said by telephone Monday that corruption and bulky bureaucracy prevented the two departments from working efficiently together.

He also criticized the government for failing to provide clear direction regarding the powers and the responsibilities of each department.

“I think both these institutions…must be reformed because both organizations are involved with corruption and bureaucracy, and their competency is overlapping,” Mr Sam Rainsy said, adding that this was symptomatic of the whole administration.

Several other senior officials con­tacted Monday declined to comment on the issue.

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