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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - RAC booted, RCAF boosted, by Hun Sen

RAC booted, RCAF boosted, by Hun Sen

PRIME Minister Hun Sen livened up an otherwise staid July 5 meeting with representatives

of Cambodia's private sector by lashing out at accusations of military involvement

in land grabs and expressing his wish that the national carrier Royal Air Cambodge

go bankrupt.

Hun Sen's comments came during the second twice-yearly meeting of the Private Sector

Forum organized by the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) to solicit private-sector

feedback on Government efforts to improve Cambodia's investment climate.

A request by a Chinese investor that Hun Sen intercede in a dispute between his company

and a Kampong Speu RCAF unit that refused to surrender land legally granted the company

by the CDC prompted a heated defense of the RCAF's reputation.

"The military in some places have been accused of abusing the land [rights]

of the people ... it affects the dignity of the military and I can't accept it,"

he said. "... You can't blame [the military] for what's not wrong ... the military

is very disciplined and has the approval of the Government."

Hun Sen topped off his tribute to the RCAF by praising it for its role in ending

rampant illegal logging in Cambodia.

"To curb illegal logging, without the military as a backbone, who could have

done it?" he asked.

Hun Sen's comments surprised spokespeople for both the human rights NGO Licadho and

the British-based environmental watchdog Global Witness.

Licadho provided the Post with a partial list of documented military-backed evictions

of an estimated 133 families from across Cambodia since the beginning of 2000.

"Hun Sen doesn't necessarily know about these cases," Licadho Director

Eva Galabru said. "But it's pretty clear the military will abuse its power and

grab land."

Global Witness Director Patrick Alley was equally puzzled by Hun Sen's praise for

RCAF saying: "our view is that RCAF was absolutely integral to the whole illegal

logging problem."

Hun Sen saved his harshest comments for Royal Air Cambodge, castigating the airline

for alleged losses of $24.25 million in recent years.

"I hope RAC goes bankrupt tomorrow," he said.

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