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Government Denies Reports on Mining Corruption and Hun Sen

Pedestrians pass the head offices of mining giant BHP Billiton in Melbourne, Australia November 27, 2008 (file photo).
The Cambodian government on Thursday dismissed media reports in Australia linking Prime Minister Hun Sen to a mining company under investigation there for corruption.

Earlier this week, The Age newspaper reported on Australian documents that described officials from BHP Billiton seeking a special meeting with Hun Sen prior to being given mineral exploration rights in 2006.

The government’s Quick Reaction Unit, which deals with media, said in a statement Thursday the report was “exaggerated” and meant to “dishonor” Hun Sen ahead of the July national elections.

BHP Billiton is under investigation in the US and Australia for allegedly corrupt practices in mining deals in Cambodia and China. Cambodia consistently ranks among the most corrupt countries in Asia.

Preap Kol, executive director for Transparency International Cambodia, said his organization does not have a mandate to investigate corruption claims such as those made in The Age, but he said he will monitor the media outcome.

Son Chhay, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said The Age has “no interest” in Cambodian politics. Rather, the Cambodian government should evaluate the country’s corruption, he said.