Sar Kheng Heading to Sweden for Meeting

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng is scheduled to arrive Monday in Sweden at the private invitation of Millicom Inter­national, the joint venture partner of mobile phone company Mo­bitel, officials said Thursday.

Co-Minister of Interior You Hockry said Sar Kheng left Monday night for a private trip to France to see family and will then travel to Sweden to meet Mil­licom officials.

In addition to meeting with officials from Millicom, the telecommunications flagship company of the Kinnevik Group of Sweden, Sar Kheng will also meet with the Swedish deputy prime minister, said Daniel Asplund, counselor at the Swedish embassy.

Mobitel was criticized recently for giving a $2,500 monthly salary to Minister of Tele­com­mun­i­cations So Khun, who says he is an honorary adviser to the company, and for operating an Inter­net service without a specialized license from the ministry.

“The Swedish government has strict rules,” Asplund said.

“If the allegations are true, it seems like it would have to be further investigated. But it’s too early to tell.”

National Assembly member Son Chhay sent a letter to the Swedish Parliament, alerting lawmakers there about the salary So Khun receives and about Mo­bitel’s Telesurf Internet service, launched March 1.

The letter said the Cambodian National Assembly Committee on Telecommunications, which Son Chhay chairs, is investigating bribery allegations against Mo­bitel and urged Swedish lawmakers to address Mobitel’s practices.

Asplund said Sar Kheng and his Swedish counterpart will talk about Cambodian government reforms and Swedish development projects.

He said he did not know whether the Mobitel-Mil­licom issue would come up.

“But with this letter and stories in the [Swedish] media, it may be hard to avoid,” Asplund said.

David Spriggs, general manager of Mobitel, said he was un­aware of Sar Kheng’s visit, but main­tained Mobitel is legally operating its Internet service.

Kith Meng, chief executive officer of Mobitel’s parent company Royal Group, has said Mobitel payments to So Khun are an allowance provided for the minister’s work as an adviser to the telecommunications industry.

Two weeks ago during a meeting of Son Chhay’s committee, So Khun admitted receiving a $2,500 monthly salary from Mobitel. He  said he was entitled to the money because the advisory work was done during private hours and didn’t interfere with his work at the ministry.

So Khun could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Son Chhay said he was not confident that the situation would improve because of Sar Kheng’s trip. “He is probably going there to convince people Mobitel is doing a great job,” Son Chhay said. “But I hope Sar Kheng and other officials are not fooled by this company.”

 

 

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