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SRP defends letter mailed to US leaders

LAWMAKERS from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party say a lack of responsiveness on the part of the National Assembly has forced them to petition United States congressmen on the issue of corruption in Cambodia’s emerging extractive resource sector.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party would hold a press conference today to highlight what he described as the ineffectiveness of the National Assembly as an institution of accountability after it failed to respond to queries – many relating to the oil industry – from the opposition.

He said the parliament had only answered a small proportion of the queries recently submitted by the SRP.

“Of 100 letters, the government could answer only 23 percent, and whenever the letters were based on a pretext the [government] could not explain, they did not answer,” he said yesterday.

In a letter to addressed to 22 US congressmen last week, the party praised Washington’s recent tightening of financial regulations on domestic resource extraction companies operating abroad but warned that Cambodia was still “ripe for disastrous extraction of our oil reserves”.

“The use of our country’s natural resources has been nothing short of tragic,” said the letter, signed by the SRP’s 26 lawmakers, including self-exiled party President Sam Rainsy.

Oil, gas, and mining companies registered with the US securities and exchange commission were forced by legislation enacted in July this year to publicly disclose all payments made to foreign governments on an annual basis.

The SRP letter drew sharp criticisms from government officials yesterday, who said the party had scored cheap political points at the expense of Cambodia’s interests.

“This is a political cause for the SRP. For internal issues under Cambodian law, they should not ask for intervention from foreigners,” said Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers.

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