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Hun Sen Verbally Attacks Report Critical of Government Corruption

Prime Minister Hun Sen attacks a recent economic report charging that about 75% of the national budget is lost due to corruption.

Mr. Hun Sen did not cite the source by name, but it believed to be a recent report by President and Founder of the Economic Institute of Cambodia, Mr. Sok Hach, last month criticizing the loss of national budget by about 75%.

Mr. Hun Sen makes the comments at the opening ceremony of a waste recycling site in Preah Sihanoukville city, saying it is true that some of the state budget is lost, but not 75%.

He says that if it were true, then Cambodia will encounter chaos and the civil servants as well as the businessmen are all thieves. He compared the critics on the Cambodian economy to worms and ignorant people.

Mr. Sok Hach's Economic Institute of Cambodia issued a report in July based on the survey of 1,200 businessmen saying that the government can only get an income of 25% in 2005, saying they unofficially paid money to government officials in order to evade paying taxes (on their merchandises).

The same report assesses that the government would probably have lost $400 millions from unpaid taxes in 2005.

President and Founder of the Economic Institute of Cambodia, Mr. Sok Hach, declines to comment on this issue, saying he does not know exactly about the nature of Mr. Hen Sen's criticisms.

He says that in the past his words have been quoted by the Cambodia Daily on July 19, before the report,and that he has met with a top tax department official at the Ministry of Economy and Finance about the number (of the budget loss) in his report.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who was Ministry of Economy and Finance in the (government) first term, says that the national budget was definitely lost due to corruption. He says that corruption comes in a very wide variety of forms in Cambodia, making this country poor.

Cambodia Center for Human Rights' director (CCHR) Kem Sokha says that the Cambodian government should not have conflicts with NGOs, saying that the economic organization had clear evidences before it issued any report on national budget loss.

Cambodia is considered to be one of the poorest countries in the world, relying on annual loans and aids from donor countries for its budget of about $600 millions. About 40% of 14 million Cambodians make less than one dollar a day.

In another development, Cambodian TV station, CTN immediately suspended its program called Cambodia Today and a Sunday discussion program several hours after Mr. Hun Sen criticized comments by the program's host reading an article published in a newspaper on the Economic Institute of Cambodia's report criticizing the government, says CTN's programmer.