Hun Sen Tells Foreign Investors Cambodia is Now Stable

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thurs­day touted Cambodia’s new-found political stability and vowed to continue reforms in ef­forts to encourage more foreign in­vestors.

“There’s no reason to worry about political instability,” said the prem­ier in his speech at a foreign in­­­vestment conference at the Ho­tel Le Royal. “Some investors are concerned that the upcoming [com­mune] elections might cause another political turmoil, but nobody would cause any trou­bles because the Khmer Rouge movement has already finished.”

Hun Sen spoke to more than 250 potential foreign investors re­p­resenting multinational cor­p­orations at Cambodia Invest­ment 2000, a conference organized by the Washington-based American-Asean Business Coun­cil and Bangkok-based Data­consult.

The premier emphasized that Cam­bodia has achieved peace and political stability after dec­ades of civil war, creating a favorable climate for investors. Then he blamed the UN-led international community for putting pres­sure on the Cambodian gov­ern­ment to hold the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

“The tiger has already died, but some people are still scared of the tiger’s skin,” he said, referring to the Khmer Rouge. “If they keep pressuring, I cannot ensure that Cambodia enjoys the peace and stability.”

After the Untac-led general elections in 1993, Cambodia saw an increase in foreign investment until the 1997 factional fighting and the Asian financial crisis. Despite new-found peace, the flow of foreign capital is still slow.

“I wish to invite you all to join us, through your concrete contri­b­u­tion, to wage a war against pov­erty and prepare Cambodia for a bright future,” Hun Sen said.

He noted such reforms as a crackdown on illegal logging, and said he would cancel three logging concessions by Sunday. Those concessions have been identified as virtually depleted of com­mercially-valuable timber in a recently-completed Asian Dev­elopment Bank-funded review.

Earlier in the day, National As­sembly President Prince Noro­dom Ranariddh also declared Cam­bodia is ready to receive more foreign investment.

“Cambodia needs the participation of the private sector to re­build its economy following more than two decades of internal conflict, isolation and political instability,” said Prince Ranariddh.

He also said Cambodia has achieved true peace since the Khmer Rouge defections, and said the two major political par­ties—Funcinpec and CPP—have learned how to cooperate. He was apparently referring to the factional fighting of 1997 that re­sulted in his ouster from pow­er.

At least one potential investor was impressed.

“There is a big potential here in Cambodia,” said Graeme Hay, engineering director for the Australian-based Pipe-Line Pro­tection Industries Co. He noted that the government has a flexible tax system, and that there seems to be no language barrier.

“You could make a fortune if the government follows what it said to us,” Hay said.

He said he wasn’t worried about the lack of infrastructure and security issues, but he said weak legal framework and lack of rule of law are concerns.

“The biggest risk here is inconsistent government policy,” Hay said.

 

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