Sam Rainsy Ambivalent on Vietnam Visit

Sam Rainsy is still committed to fighting illegal immigration and border infringements by Viet­namese, despite favorable comments the opposition party leader made about Vietnam in Hanoi earlier this week, Sam Rainsy’s cabinet chief said.

Sam Rainsy told reporters Tues­day that Cambodia and its “mafia-style economy” has “a lot to learn” from Vietnam.

The parliamentarian and former finance minister met with Vietnam’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister on Mon­day during a weeklong visit that began Sunday. He was scheduled to visit factories in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Phi Thach said that Sam Rain­sy’s criticisms of Vietnam in the past merely reflected his belief that illegal immigration and the border problem need resolutions. Those criticisms were not meant to “degrade” all of Vietnam, Phi Thach said.

“He sees [now] that Vietnam might have a better social order than Cambodia,” Phi Thach said. “He has seen good points that we could duplicate in our country, but he is not saying that we should duplicate their governing system.”

“If Vietnam encroaches onto our land or has illegal immigrants come into our country, we must talk about it,” Phi Thach said.

In the past, Sam Rainsy has led anti-Hanoi demonstrations in the streets of Phnom Penh and criticized the CPP-led government for its close ties to Vietnam, calling Prime Minister Hun Sen a Viet­namese puppet.

Sam Rainsy pointed out to an Agence France-Pres­se reporter Tuesday that Vietnam has no landless farmers, while 20 percent of Cambodia’s farmers are landless.

“Vietnam is only seven times more populous than Cambodia, but has attracted 20 times more investment than Cambodia,” Sam Rainsy said. “Vietnam has a consistent master plan for the re­forms that they want to implement but in Cambodia reforms are conducted in pieces without any consistency.”

He said he was tired of being ridiculed at home for advocating Western-style reforms. “So I will persuade [Cambodia] to adopt an approach adopted by a communist society that is moving toward a market economy,” he said.

Sam Rainsy also told AFP that “a poor country like Cambodia should consolidate all her efforts and energies to alleviate poverty…instead of diverting energy to cope with tension with neighboring countries.”

Sam Rainsy last visited Viet­nam 40 years ago as a boy, when the southern part of the country was its own capitalist nation.

Phi Thach stressed that the visit was private, not official. “He went there with his wife only,” he said. “No party officials accompanied him.”

Phi Thach said Sam Rainsy may also visit ethnic “Kampuchea Krom” Khmers living in southern Vietnam during his trip.


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