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Hun Sen Addresses International Oil Concerns

Prime Minister Hun Sen Wednesday moved to reassure the international community that money from oil in offshore reserves would find its way into the national budget through taxes.

In a statement at a bridge inauguration ceremony in Kandal province, where he lauded good diplomatic relations with China, Hun Sen said foreign institutions and governments should be more concerned with whether Cambodia gets a fair share from oil.

"I only hear you and other people talk about spending money from oil, but I haven't heard anybody talk about ways to make oil revenue increase," Hun Sen said.

International finance institutions and others have warned Cambodia to ensure its oil money is a boon for the country and does not widen the gap between rich and poor or separate the government from the governed.

"The US, Japan, Australia—those countries whose companies come—tell the companies to share as much production share as possible with Cambodia," Hun Sen said. "Secondly the taxes should be high."

He emplored the US Embassy to "try to talk with Chevron," which continues to sink test wells off Cambodia's coast.

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said oil negotiations were between Cambodia and a private business, so were outside the purview of the embassy.

Critics have warned that Cambodia's weak rule of law could undermine earnings from oil, which have been explored in offshore reserves in the Gulf of Thailand.

"If we do not have foresight, the money will flow into the pockets of the corrupt," opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Wednesday.

Center for Social Development Director Seng Theary said weak governance was a legitimate concern.

"We cite this issue because we have seen real situations in other countries, and we know about the real situation in our country: that we do not have good governance yet, and we do not have an anti-corruption law yet," she said. "It is this point that makes us have concerns."