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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Silence is golden in PPenh

Silence is golden in PPenh

THE political finger-pointing from the toxic waste scandal is being played out behind

closed doors in Phnom Penh, with the "real" decision-maker, according to

one political source, being too senior to touch.

"I like to study this incident," said one Khmer analyst. "The whole

future of Cambodia can been seen through this. It's like a field study on how this

government will stumble from crisis to crisis within the next five years."

Initial blame lies within the ruling CPP, he says. He agreed with rumors that have

been circulating since the scandal was publicized that Prime Minister Hun Sen had

briefly been pressured to censor a key party chief - a minister close to Hun Sen

and a deal-maker in charge of the party's purse-strings.

"But this man cannot be touched," the source said. "This deal [with

Formosa Plastics] was one of many done before [the] July [elections], to boost party

coffers." The deal is said to have been worth $3 million .

Instead, Customs Director In Saroeun is the most senior official to have been censored

to date, suspended on Dec 23 with four of his deputies. Customs comes under the Finance

Ministry, ministered by Hun Sen loyalist Keat Chhon.

"But Saroeun is [CPP President] Chea Sim's man," the analyst said. "Much

of Chea Sim's [power] comes from Customs. But Customs cannot know what is being imported,

like Saroeun had already said. They only collect the money.

"The real people to look at here are Camcontrol. They're under Cham Prasidh

at [the Ministry of] Commerce. People say that Prasidh and [Cabinet Minister] Sok

An dislike each other. But in this matter they have stuck together.

"[Interior Minister] Sar Kheng has gone on record saying an investigation should

be made to the very top. I think that was unwise. He knows he cannot touch the man

at the top."

The way Funcinpec had virtually ignored the scandal "means they are not aware

of the implications," he said, "it's so stupid."

"They care more about what the US Senate is doing, but when they get this bombshell...

this golden opportunity, like a gift presented to them, to expose their rivals, they

do nothing."

He said Funcinpec should have publicly supported Kheng's call for a full investigation.

Instead, even Funcinpec's new Secretary of State for Commerce - and currently head

of the Cambodian Olympic committee and former national soccer manager, Ravy Khek

- had been silent, even though he had the ability "if not the courage"

to follow the paper trail through to the top.

"The government has said it had a real commitment to develop the country. Well,

it's not much of a start," he said.

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