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.