PM to Donors: I Alone Can Reform Government

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday opened the eighth Con­sultative Group meeting, at which do­nors announce their aid packages, by promising that wide-ranging re­forms will flow from recent political developments and telling donors he alone has the power to end Cambo­dia’s woes.

Donor statements obtained after the meeting painted a picture of a largely amicable meeting, though the US raised concerns over the gov­ernment’s feeble anti-corruption ef­forts and Germany questioned re­form in the forestry sector.

“Cambodians have found a Cam­bo­dian solution to their differences,” Hun Sen said in a speech to the meet­ing.

He added that he expects the long-delayed anti-corruption law to be passed this year and called on do­nors to fund a larger land-titling program, increasing the issuance of titles from 20,000 to 50,000 per month.

He also said that if anyone can stamp out corruption, it will be him.

“I have won many battles on many battlefields, I stopped the civil war, but I don’t know if I can succeed against corruption, if I can succeed with land reform and win against land conflict. But if Hun Sen fails, I am not sure who could succeed,” he said.

He also complained that donors ask him to stop illegal logging without giving him funding for an independent forest monitor.

Once the CG discussions began, re­porters were barred from the room and the public address system out­side was turned off whenever speakers diverged from their printed speeches.

US Ambassador Joseph Musso­meli warned in his statement that the current draft of the anti-corruption law does not meet international standards, and that the government must commit to regularly reporting on investigations into corruption.

“Despite all our concern and commitment, thus far in a country with endemic corruption, as far as we are aware, there have been few if any convictions based on corruption charges,” he said.

In its statement, Germany ex­press­ed concerns that some 2004 benchmarks were not carried over to the new 2006 CG indicators.

“The disclosure of mining concessions and military development zones on public lands should be kept on the agenda,” the German del­e­gation said.

France struck a more conciliatory tone on the pace of judicial re­form.

In speaking of the government’s de­layed passage of the penal and civ­­il codes, the French stated: “Please understand that any impatience that you may sense on the part of donors does not imply any wish to interfere…donors ought to give support not lessons.”

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said that he expects over $500 million in aid to be pledged by the meeting’s end today.

“Hun Sen appealed for more aid on land and forest reforms…they may offer more aid,” he said.

Outside the meeting room, Hun Sen announced that Japan, Cambo­dia’s largest donor, would not be able to announce its pledge level un­til May when it is approved in Tokyo.

Hun Sen’s comments that economic and social reform will follow from his announced shift in the political sphere were echoed this week by economists.

“The slowness of civil service reform is linked to political agendas: You cannot make a reform of the civil service when you still have a political quota system,” Sok Hach, the director of the Economic Ins­titute of Cambodia, said Wednes­day.

“Economic reform cannot move without political reform,” Sok Hach said, adding that Hun Sen’s push to lower the number of lawmakers nec­essary to form a government and pass laws should jump-start re­form.

“With 50 plus one the government cannot say anymore that ‘I cannot move, I have political constraints,’” he said.



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