PM Bans Taiwanese Billionaire, Celebrations

Fearful of upsetting relations with China, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday barred one of Tai­wan’s wealth­iest men from attending a business forum in Phnom Penh and told authorities to stop Taiwan­ese celebrations.

“We cannot take Taiwanese aid or investment from Taiwan that is intended to trample on the sovereignty of the Republic of China,” Hun Sen said after the first Coun­cil of Min­isters meeting attended by Funcin­pec ministers in about nine months.

The government told the Phnom Penh Chamber of Com­merce that Jeffrey Koo, honorary president of the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Com­merce and Industry, would not be allowed to attend next week’s Asia Business Forum because he is an unpaid presidential adviser to Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian.

Hun Sen also told officials to stand ready to break up celebrations marking the inauguration of Chen Shui-bian, who recently won a second presidential term.

“This can cause the danger for Cambodia’s foreign policy toward the one-China policy the Royal Government has followed and is following,” Hun Sen said.

Sorn Sokna, vice president of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce, said Koo “wanted to take part in the forum but not if it’s not honorable for him to do so.”

Other Taiwanese business representatives still plan to attend the forum, he added.

With an estimated worth of $2.6 billion, Koo is Taiwan’s fourth rich­est man. Forbes recently listed him as the 198th richest man in the world.

China detests Chen Shui-bian for his aggressiveness in pushing for a Taiwanese identity separate from the mainland. During his campaign, he called for a referendum on the island’s independence, which many fear could lead to war.

Hun Sen cozied up to Beijing on a recent visit to China, during which the Chinese agreed to in­crease aid and investment here. China has pledged to rebuild the Council of Ministers building and give an interest-free loan to build National Route 7 from Kratie to the Lao border.

Over the past decade, Taiwan­ese businesses have invested nearly twice as much in Cambodia as their mainland counterparts. But that trend appears to be changing.

During the first three months of this year, the Council for the De­velopment of Cambodia registered about $16 million in fixed assets of Chinese investments, all in garment factories. The CDC registered only one Taiwanese project, a joint venture with a Cambodian firm worth less than $1 million in fixed assets.

“The relationship between Chi­na and Cambodia is getting strong­er and stronger,” Jimmy Gao, president of the Chinese Chamber of Com­merce in Cambo­dia, said Friday.

But he didn’t think Taiwanese investors would be deterred by Cambodia’s political stance.

“Most of the Taiwanese businessmen come here for profits, not to get involved with politics,” he said.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the country’s one-China policy gives the government political leverage but deters Taiwanese investors.

“The Taiwanese invest a lot in Vietnam, Thailand and Malay­sia,” the official said. “But in Cambodia they just open a small, small company.”

 

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