Hun Sen Rejects World Bank Money After Wait

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday that he was canceling a major World Bank-backed pilot project to build a village for the disabled in Kompong Cham pro­vince’s Memot district be­cause the government had been waiting too long for it to materialize.

In his nationally broadcast speech, Hun Sen said that the land set aside for the project should be used for a social land concession.

“We stopped the project,” Hun Sen said. “Do not wait for money that is in someone else’s pockets,” he added.

Hun Sen also claimed that the World Bank wasted too much money for such projects on consultants’ fees. “If [the Bank] give 100 percent and then take away 80 percent [for consultants], we should not accept it,” he said.

The World Bank declined to comment Wednesday.

In the same speech, Hun Sen ordered the Cambodia Mine Action Center to prioritize clearing mines for social land concessions so that land could be distributed to people suffering disabilities.

He also instructed provincial governors to identify vacant land to be used for such concessions, stipulating that the disabled should be given priority.

Hun Sen also claimed that the government has already given 10,000 hectares of land for social land concessions in Dambe and Tbong Khmum districts in Kom­pong Cham.

A new $2-million pilot housing complex being built for 240 families of people with disabilities is to be up and running in April, a government official said Wednesday.

Kvan Seam, director of engineering at the Ministry for Defense, said work was underway to build infra­struc­ture for the families on a 460-hec­tare social land concession at a loca­tion skirting the boundaries of Kam­pot, Koh Kong and Kompong Speu provinces that had recently been cleared of unexploded ordnance.

Cham Ropha, a planning official with the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, said that it was important that the Cambodian government give money to such projects. “We have not had such a strong commitment [from the government] on this issue before,” he said.

Kvan Seam said the families who are to move to Center 317 are currently living in a center in Kandal’s Ken Svay district and are relying on government pensions alone.

At the new location, each family will be given a 26 square-meter plot for a house with 1.5 hectares on which to cultivate rice, he said. Land would also be put aside for schools, hospitals, pagodas and mar­kets. Work is underway on a road to the area where the families would be housed, he said, adding that when this pilot project was completed the government would consider further projects.

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said that while he welcomed the project, he feared that the area in which the new center was to be built was too isolated. “An area too far away from centers of population would not be ap­propriate,” Yim Sovann said.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said .a better approach to distributing land cleared of landmines would be to give it to people who need land in general, disabled or not, Son Chhay said.

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