Leaders of the Group of 20 nations gather for a photo at a summit in Los Cabos, Mexico this week. Pictured are (from left to right): US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Reuters
Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead officials and business leaders in a one-day-conference at the third Cambodia-Vietnam Trade and Investment Conference in Vietnam’s Kien Giang province on Sunday, in a bid to boost trade and investment between the two ASEAN neighbours.
The Prime Minister has just returned from the Group of 20 summit in Mexico.
Activists are warning that the government needs to set clearer mechanisms on investment from Vietnam to protect Cambodia’s economy and natural resources.
Cambodia and Vietnam reached agreements on deals worth $6 billion during the first such conference in 2009.
Activist Ouch Leng said the government should check land-concession agreements carefully before it made any deals with Vietnam.
Ouch Leng, land reform co-ordinator for the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights, said Vietnamese companies had a history of land concessions from the government that they used for mining, growing rubber and forestry.
“We lose a lot of benefit to the economy, and it also makes people lose their businesses or homes due to concessional land being offered to investors from China and Vietnam,” he said.
“The activities of investors are quite good on paper, but once they get their licence or permission from the government, they do what they want without caring.
“I don’t see the government using its authority to crack down on, or to do anything about, these companies, unless there is some bloodshed, but by then it’s a bit late.
“I suggest the government should set up clearer mechanisms for concessions.
“We say that companies come to exploit, or take the benefit from, the natural resources of our country while they just give around $2 or $5 to the government per hectare of land.”
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, the two countries’ prime ministers will witness the signing of a protocol on the amendment of the Agreement on the Promotion and Protection of Investment between the two countries on the same day.
Nguon Meng Tech, director-general of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), noted the good outcome from previous conferences, adding that the president of the CCC, Kith Meng, would lead more than 100 of the Kingdom’s leading businessmen from multiple business sectors.
“We got a lot of good outcomes from the conferences that have been held since 2009, so many investments from Vietnam across sectors to our country,” he said.
Tran Tu, trade attaché for the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh, said the conference was held every 18 months to two years in order to review the implementation of investment activities between the two countries.
“Since the first conference was held, the flow of capital from Vietnam into Cambodia has been increasing rapidly,” Tran Tru said.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at [email protected]