PM Asks Visiting Li Peng for $60M in Aid

Prime Minister Hun Sen asked Li Peng, the second-ranking member in China’s Communist Party, for $60 million in aid at a Saturday meeting at the Council of Mini­sters, a government official said.

Most of the aid, coming in a $48 million zero-interest loan, would go toward repairing a potholed, mostly unpaved road that runs from Kratie town through Stung Treng and on to the Lao border, said spokesman Eang Sophalleth.

Another $12 million would be used to demobilize 15,000 soldiers, said Eang Sophalleth. That aid would either take the form of a zero-interest loan or credit.

Eang Sophalleth said members of the Chinese delegation did not give an answer to the request, but said they would press the issue with officials in Beijing.

After meeting Li Peng on Satur­day, Hun Sen said he appreciates the fact that China has not put pressure on Cambodia over a proposed international tribunal for former Khmer Rouge leaders. He said he did not discuss the pending tribunal with Li Peng.

“China does not talk about this issue and Cambodia does not want to talk about this issue, either,” he said. “I have only known China for about 10 years, but Chinese leaders always re­spect the independence….They never interfere with a country’s internal affairs.”

Diplomats, however, have said China has been pressuring Cam­bodia to avoid a trial.

China has said that it has no reason to apologize for its support for the Khmer Rouge regime, in which more than 1 million Cam­bodians died of overwork, starvation or execution. China has also urged other nations to stay away from the tribunal debate.

Wang Xiaoyuan, a National People’s Congress official and a member of the visiting Chinese delegation, didn’t comment on China’s stance on a tribunal.

Li Peng, one of the most powerful politicians in China, is chairman of the National People’s Congress. He is a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and ranks just behind President Jiang Zemin in the Communist Party.

He served two consecutive five-year terms, beginning in 1988, as China’s premier. It was early in his first term that the Tiananmen Square massacre occurred, in which pro-democracy demonstrators were shot and killed by Chi­nese soldiers.

Li Peng is widely believed to be the leader of the conservative hard-liners in the government who pushed for the crackdown.

In addition to his meting with Hun Sen Saturday, Li Peng also met with National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ran­ariddh and Senate President Chea Sim. He toured Indepen­dence Monument, the National Mu­seum and the Royal Palace.

Li Peng returned Sunday from a morning visit to the Angkor temples in Siem Reap. He was scheduled to meet with members of the local Chinese business community Sunday afternoon.

He is scheduled to depart from Pochentong Airport this morning, and will visit Brunei and South Korea before returning home.


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