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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prodigious price tag permissible, says Ranariddh

Prodigious price tag permissible, says Ranariddh

The $1.2 million price tag for the AIPO meeting, which included a mid-week trip to

Siem Reap to tour the temples, was justified said Cambodia's Prince Norodom Ranariddh,

president of AIPO.

Responding to reporters at the close of the conference, Ranariddh said that while

it may seem like other countries spent less to host past AIPO sessions, this was

due to different funding structures.

However, concerns from the Malaysian delegation at spiraling costs and accountability

led to this paragraph being inserted into the final Joint Communique:

"The Assembly also reminded the AIPO Secretariat of the need for transparency,

greater clarity and precision in the drafting of the yearly financial report in order

to enable AIPO members to better monitor AIPO expenditure."

Son Chhay, a member of Sam Rainsy Party who took part in the meeting, criticized

the AIPO spending, saying last year's meeting in Indonesia cost only $600,000 while

in 2001 Thailand spent just $400,000.

Chhay accused the government of inflating costs, giving the example of the numerous

police motorbikes used in motorcades being billed at one liter of petrol for every

kilometer traveled.

Delegates were also treated to a trip to visit Angkor Wat, which cost $56,000 in

airfares and at least $8,000 in transport, food and guides, according to organizers.

"All this is triple what it cost in reality," said Chhay, who took part

in the meeting. "I think corruption in this country is getting close to the

bone it's so deep."

Chhay also questioned what happened to $800,000 he claims was set aside for an AIPO

meeting planned for last year but moved due to the political deadlock in Cambodia.

"For some reason we could not find this money," said Chhay.

Cheam Yeap, director of the commission for finance and banking at the National Assembly

and member of a committee set up to account for AIPO money, could not provide more

detail about AIPO spending and hung the phone up twice when asked by the Post about

the money budgeted for the meeting last year.

Chan Ven, deputy secretary general of the National Assembly, denied that money was

put aside for last year's planned meeting.



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