Top Businessmen Say Protest Hurts Economy

Two prominent businessmen in Phnom Penh believe the 10-day old opposition demonstration in front of the National Assembly is hurting business and foreign investment in Cambodia.

Mong Reththy, a major export­er-importer of rubber, and Kong Triv, deputy director of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Com­merce, both said their foreign partners are unnerved by the political turmoil.

Speaking in his office on  Siha­nouk Boulevard, Mong Reththy, president of Mong Reththy Company, said the dem­on­stra­tion by opposition parties is scaring off some investors.

“Foreign investors do not want to come and put money into running a business,” he said.

Mong Reththy said the demonstration has affected a cassava flour processing plant he is planning to open in Preah Vihear province. Plans for the factory were laid early in 1998 with Mal­aysian and Korean partners, but “now the demonstration is going. It makes investors who have already contracted reconsider whether they will come. They told me they want to postpone for a while.”

A miniature replica of a bamboo hut displayed on a shelf beside him, the rubber magnate and associate of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed frustration over the opposition sit-in, saying: “I say on behalf of the Cambodian people, I believe that this [demonstration] cannot help people at all. This is the time that all those farmers are supposed to be planting rice. If they are busy joining the demonstration, later they will have no rice for their families.

“[The demonstration] is really affecting many investors…and also affecting the 11 million people of the country. Foreign in­vestors do not want to come put money into running businesses,” said Mong Reththy, his heavy gold and diamond ring twinkling as he gestured with his hands. “If they do not want to come here, many of the Cambodian people will have no job to do, so there will not be enough food to eat.”

Kong Triv, who also is president of Pacific Commercial Bank, agreed.

“This is the time that we are supposed to work hard for the country,” he said. “The demonstration is affecting business too much, especially people who are joining the demonstration nowadays, because they will lose time to work in the rice fields….I want our country to form a new government as soon as possible.”

Kong Triv blamed “some politicians” for jeopardizing the country’s economic future, saying, “If the situation here were good following the election, I could tell investors that our country is safe for doing business.”

With investment comes legitimacy, Kong Triv said. “They will trust Cambodia and we can borrow money from the Asian Development Bank or the World Bank for development.”

“The election is over,” he continued. “I think we must talk at a round table to find a solution for many problems happening now. I’m bored by the political game and bored to see this kind of situation.”


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