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Watchdog Renews Call for Oil Transparency

The US oil giant Chevron and the Cambodian government need to improve transparency in the management of oil revenue, a Cambodian watchdog said Monday.

“What we want to know is how this revenue from natural resources is being managed, because it is a new sector,” Mam Sambath, chairman of Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency, told “Hello VOA.” “We want to see this revenue being managed transparently and accountably so that Cambodian people and their future generations benefit equally.”

Mam Sambath, who attended Chevron’s annual meeting last week in Houston, Texas, to advocate for a payment disclosure policy, said greater transparency will work in the company’s interest.

“The disclosure will instead promote a good image of Chevron in a country it operates,” he said. “And it will also attract other highly responsible companies to follow suit and invest in that particular country.”

Cambodia insists it has been transparent in managing state revenue.

“We don’t have a problem [if a company makes their payment public],” Hang Chuon Naron, secretary-general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, told VOA Khmer. “The prime minister has authorized us to do that, and we have been doing that all along.”

However, a caller from Banteay Meanchey province expressed skepticism in the government’s transparency efforts. Villagers are seldom fully informed of gold mining operations in the province, the caller, who gave his name as Ny, said.

Transparency advocates say Cambodia would do well to become a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, or EITI.

“On natural resources, the international community must push the government to be a member of EITI to ensure effectiveness in management of revenues and expenditure from mineral resources,” said Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party. “Sooner or later we will extract oil and gold, and revenue from this sector is gigantic. If we manage it properly we will be rich.”

Yim Sovann called for openness for input from the public, lawmakers and the international community for the drafting of a management law for natural resources currently underway.

Mam Sambath agrees.

“I strongly urge the government to consider becoming a member of EITI, so that we can better manage revenue from natural resources and help better manage our economy,” Mam Sambath said.