Six local businessmen and their supporters started a three-day protest outside the
Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce (CoC) on July 17 after they were expelled from their
elected positions on the board and had their memberships revoked.
One of the men, Ted Ngoy, a former doughnut king in the United States and currently
head of the King Group real estate firm, told a news conference the businessmen wanted
to make their voices heard.
Ngoy and five other members of the 180 member CoC were expelled by the Ministry of
Commerce at the behest of CoC chairman okhna Sok Kong, who also runs the well-connected
Ngoy charged Sok Kong with "inactivity, irregularity and dictatorship during
his three years' rule" and publicly urged Prime Minister Hun Sen not to support
the organization's July 28 "unfair and non-transparent" election, describing
it as a "Mickey Mouse" affair.
Ngoy claimed that business in Cambodia had stalled since Sok Kong's leadership of
the CoC. He said "almost every elected member" of the CoC board was unhappy
with Sok Kong's tenure.
"I don't know how Cambodia is going to survive, except year after year begging
for $500 million," he said.
Video producer Chan Ven, who was also expelled, said they lost their posts because
Sok Kong knew they would not vote for him in the July 28 board election.
However, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh denied the expulsions were over internal
political wrangling. He accused Ngoy, Chan Ven and the four other businessmen - supermarket
owner Ouk Khun, builder Cheang Seng, import/export entrepreneur Kim Vandy, and Metropole
hotel owner Kim Long - of neglecting to pay either their taxes or their business
licenses, which made their positions on the business body untenable.
"How can they claim they are businessmen?" he asked. "They should
be ashamed of themselves."
Prasidh said the CoC was "transparent and fair to everybody", and added
that he would forward the case to the Ministry of Economy and Finance to consider
possible legal action.
When Ngoy was asked whether their was any truth to the minister's allegations, he
replied he did not know and would have to check with his accountant.
However, he said he possessed a valid business license and had paid his taxes three
years ago when first elected to the CoC. He asserted that he could not be expelled
after serving only half his term.
"[Paying taxes] is a different issue," he said. "Why are they doing
this now at election time?"