Opposition Attacks Hun Sen’s Call for Reforms

Just days after the government an­nounced plans for a $500 million-per-year aid request, Prime Min­ister Hun Sen vowed Sunday to combat poverty and corruption, while opposition leaders accused the premier of repeating empty promises to bolster his image.

“[The government] is full of bu­reaucracy and corruption that must be fought in the near fu­ture,” Hun Sen said at a school construction ceremony at Wat Phnom Sunday morning.

He called for sweeping re­forms aimed at improving economic and living standards, including promoting the country’s agricultural sector, and boost­ing transportation, health and education. He also promised reforms of public administration and the courts.

The premier defended the government’s reliance on support from international donors. “Peo­ple claim that Prime Minister Hun Sen is good at begging. If we don’t beg, how can we have the funds to develop?” he asked.

On Thursday, Minister of Finance Keat Chhon said the government will seek $1.5 billion over three years from donors at the next Consultative Group mee­ting, expected to take place soon after a new government is formed. The CG meeting is where international donors an­nounce pledges for Cambodia.

Opposition leaders said Sunday they were skeptical of  Hun Sen’s promises. “What he’s said today is not only his first time he said that,” said Sam Rainsy Party Sen­ator Ou Bunlong.

Eng Chhay Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, added: “He always shouts many orders but nothing is implemented afterward…. He speaks like this because he wants to make his face look good.”

Eng Chhay Eang, however, said Hun Sen’s call for reforms echoed demands of the opposition party and Funcinpec’s Al­liance of Democrats during talks on forming a new government.

Hun Sen could prove he is serious about tackling corruption if he accepts a national platform for the next mandate which was submitted by Funcinpec, Eng Chhay Eang said. Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Siri­vudh de­clined to comment Sunday, saying he had not yet heard Hun Sen’s speech.

In 1999, Hun Sen promised to step down if government reforms were not implemented as prom­ised to major international donors at a CG meeting in Japan. Five years later, the government has yet to implement an anti-corruption law, illegal logging remains rampant, and the education and health ministries continue to spend far less than allocated.

Meanwhile, Hun Sen also an­nounced Sunday he will depart for Beijing on April 20. During his trip, he will sign 15 bilateral agreements.


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