Ranariddh Dismisses Cost of Asean Meeting

After delivering his closing remarks to the Asean Inter-Parliamentarian Organization Thursday, National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh lauded the delegates’ progress on the region’s poverty gap and dismissed criticism of the summit’s cost as unfounded.

At the end of the weeklong summit in Phnom Penh, the prince told reporters that AIPO member nations had established an Asean poverty fund and pledged to fo­cus on development in agriculture, ecotourism and technology.

Then, turning his attention to criticism of the conference’s budget, Prince Ranariddh, who is president of AIPO, said that all the expenses were justified, ac­counted for and approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Assembly Deputy Vice President Nguon Nhel then proceeded to reel off a list of expenses co­vered by the organizational committee, including $325,000 for an X-ray security system and $250,000 for the delegates’ ac­commodation at the Hotel InterContinental.

“The money was not used for Hun Sen’s golf,” he said, referring to an outing the prime minister made with some of the delegates during the conference.

The government has faced criticism over the summit’s approved budget of $1.2 million, which some have said is significantly more than other host nations have paid.

Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay has said that In­donesia spent only $600,000 on the AIPO meeting last year, while Thailand spent $400,000 in 2001.

The apparent discrepancies in cost were due to different structures of funding, Prince Ranariddh said.

He said that while In­donesia and Thailand authorized individual ministries to use their funds in preparation for the conference—thus reducing the spending of a central committee—Cambodia covered all costs from a central AIPO fund.

Nguon Nhel added: “We spent more money on AIPO because our country is different from oth­er countries…. The money that was approved by Hun Sen had to cover everything. It was difficult for us.”

Ranariddh went on to say that he would create a committee to audit the conference’s expense in order to prove that everything was accounted for.

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