More than 250 delegates arrived in Phnom Penh on Sunday, ahead of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Organization summit, which opens today.
Main roads were cordoned off as busloads of delegates were whisked through the capital, escorted by police vehicles. The event, which runs through Sept 17, has drawn criticism from those who consider it a waste of government funds.
In response, Cheam Yeap, CPP parliamentarian and deputy head of the meeting’s organizing committee, said that the conference would draw tourists to Cambodia, encourage future legislation and improve the economy.
“There are a lot of advantages from the meeting that are too numerous to elaborate,” he said.
The price tag for the summit and hosting its 283 delegates has been set at $1.2 million.
Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay said that Indonesia spent $600,000 to host the AIPO meeting last year, while Thailand spent $400,000 in 2001.
He accused the government of inflating the summit’s budget by lavishing unnecessary gifts upon the delegates.
Cheam Yeap said that a committee had been formed to establish whether the expenditures were worthwhile.
Son Chhay also said that the summit had never offered any advantages to Cambodia nor inspired the National Assembly to pass any resolutions
In addition to Son Chhay’s criticism, the Sam Rainsy Party seized the opportunity to condemn the new coalition on Sunday. The statement, addressed to the visiting delegates, denounces both the opposition’s exclusion from the Assembly and the manner in which the current government was formed.
“The Sam Rainsy Party urges all delegates and observers to the AIPO conference to take immediate action in calling on the CPP and Funcinpec leadership to reconsider their actions and the consequences these actions will have on the meaning of parliamentarian democracy in Cambodia,” the statement read.