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Opposition urges China checks

Opposition urges China checks

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Cambodian students hold portraits of Chinese President Hu Jintao (C) and his wife (L) at Phnom Penh International airport. Photograph: AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy

Cambodian students hold portraits of Chinese President Hu Jintao (C) and his wife (L) at Phnom Penh International airport. Photograph: AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy

Prime Minister Hun Sen has called investors from China’s Anhui province to invest in numerous sectors across Cambodia in an effort to spur two-way trade between the Kingdom and China in order accomplish their joint target of US$5 billion in trade by 2015.

Meanwhile, Cambodia’s opposition party claims the government should perform strict checks before approving any investments that would impact on the economy and the people.

Last week, Chinese-based Ruijin Investment Holding limited, from Hainan province in China, announced investments in three projects in rice farming, tourism and a cattle ranch, worth a total of $6.5 billion, while Shantui, from Shantong province and one of the largest manufacturers of heavy construction machinery, sought to invest in rice farming and rubber plantations in Kampong Cham province.

The premier had raised the request during the official visit of the deputy secretary of the Anhui Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to Cambodia on August 15.

“You should observe what you can invest in now or what is a potential investment in Cambodia, in order to spur two-way trading between our countries, so that we may attain $5 billion by 2015 as both countries previously agreed to,” said the premier.

Cambodia is allowed 418 different kinds of goods duty-free to export to the Chinese market; however, Cambodia has not completely enjoyed the preferential tax system, he said. Sun Jin Long, deputy secretary of the Anhui provincial committee of the CPC, said his province, located in central China, was regarded as an industrial and agricultural powerhouse.

“We’re coming to Cambodia today aiming to expand and enhance the co-operation between Anhui province and Cambodia. We will seek  investment opportunities in any sector in the Kingdom,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Cambodia welcomed any foreign investment that benefited the economy and the people.

But the government should be required to doubly examine investments that might harm the people and the community, he said.

“Of course, it is good if the investors have enough capital, comply with the country’s laws, as well as bring technology to the country. But if they just come to violate people’s property rights, conduct illegal businesses by co-operating with some officials and adversely impact on the people or the environment, such as causing deforestation – the government should be mindful of this kind of investment.”  

Some Chinese companies were operating very well and respecting the rules, Yim Sovann said.

At the same time, some others were destroying natural resources, deforesting much of the countryside and seizing people’s land and property, he said.

“We should be avoiding some of these companies. We don’t see too much in the way of effective action by the government to combat these companies, because of corruption. Our people always suffer at the hands of these companies.”

Yim Sovann added that nearly a million Cambodians did not have farmland, some of which had been seized by companies. Others have become homeless as a result of the firms’ activities, he said.

“This happens because of the corrupt officials who conspire with the companies.”  

According to data from the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh, bilateral trade between Cambodia and China reached $2.5 billion last year, up 73.5 per cent from a year earlier.

Official data from the Council for the Development of Cambodia shows approved investment from China to Cambodia declined more than 87 per cent over the first half of this year, from $1.1 billion to $141 million year-on-year.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at [email protected]

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