Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, during a recent trip to Singapore, flew to Kuala Lumpur
for secret talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad.
In an apparent bid to reassure the Malaysians that their business interests in Cambodia
are safe, Hun Sen flew there from Singapore on June 6 for a dinner engagement with
Malaysia's elder statesman.
Hun Sen spent a few hours in the company of Mahathir, then flew back to Singapore
on the evening shuttle, according to a Malaysia-based source close to Ariston Sdn
Bhd, the Malaysian firm slated for a $1.3 billion development of Sihanoukville.
"He was asked to go there to reaffirm faith of Malaysians in their Cambodian
investments," said a close observer of Cambodian relations with ASEAN neighbors.
The Ariston source, when asked whether company chief Dr Chen Lip Keong met Hun Sen,
would only say that Chen had been "at the office all day."
In Phnom Penh, Malaysian Embassy officials said Hun Sen's visit was "purely
private". Embassy spokesman Badruddin Rahman would not say whether the Prime
Minister had met Mahathir or Chen.
Om Yentieng, advisor to the Second Prime Minister, said he knew nothing about the
visit to Kuala Lumpur, and that Hun Sen had been in Singapore for health reasons.
Earlier, Hun Sen sent a letter to Mahathir in which he specifically mentioned Ariston
and wrote: "I would like to assure you that, I, on behalf of the Royal Government
of Cambodia, intend to honor all agreements signed, whether in respect of Malaysian
companies or any other investor," Hun Sen wrote.
Hun Sen's letter followed First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh's statement
last month that he was prepared to cancel the Ariston contract if the government
and the National Assembly were prepared to bear the consequences.
An international observer said the Prince appeared to be distancing himself and Funcinpec
from Ariston, while placing the burden of the success or failure of the Ariston deal
on the whole coalition government.