FOREIGN investors approved by the Cambodian Development Council (CDC) face having
to pay bribes to other government officials to push forward their projects, according
to Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
In impromptu comments during last week's corruption conference, Ranariddh complained
that the work of the CDC "one-stop" shop for foreign investors was being
In fact, he said, there were many other "stops" for investors, and they
were all "red-light" stops.
"The red light lasts very long if you don't fuel it with some green paper,"
he said in reference to bribery.
Ranariddh complained that the CDC tried to decide on all investment applications
within 45 days of receipt, but it could take up to two years before investors got
all the necessary approvals from other government bodies to start work.
"It's very, very bad...it's very frustrating," he said, but did not refer
to any particular projects which had been delayed.
The CDC, chaired by Ranariddh and headed by the Funcinpec Secretary of State for
Finance Sun Chantol, is widely considered to be politically-controversial. Diplomats
and lawyers say Cambodian People's Party leader Hun Sen has little support for the
CDC, particularly since it was instrumental in arranging a contentious contract with
Malaysian firm Ariston to develop Sihanoukville.
In February, Ranariddh said he was unhappy with the lack of progress on the Ariston
development. The Malaysian firm replied that it was intent on completing the project
on schedule, but had faced delays in getting clearances from Cambodian government
ministries and departments.
Hun Sen has been silent on the Ariston deal but an adviser to the Prime Minister,
Om Yentieng, recently told the Post that the government had no interest in "killing"
existing contracts with investors.
Yentieng would not comment on the Ariston deal but noted that the Cambodian investment
climate was "complicated."
"There are many factors to be looked at and implemented appropriately before
contracts can start," he said.
"Sometimes problems arise from investors relying on the approval of the CDC
and ignoring other technical issues concerning other ministries and authorities,
such as land tenure."
The Ariston contract has been surrounded with secrecy, raising questions from some
MPs and other observers who want full details of the deal to be made public.
Some suggest the issue could become openly political, even leading to allegations
"Hun Sen is going to use this deal as a weapon against Prince Norodom Ranariddh,"
Tioulong Samoura, wife of political dissident Sam Rainsy and the former deputy governor
of the National Bank, told the Post recently.
Meanwhile, MP Son Chhay last week suggested he would support a complaint of corruption
over the Ariston contract if the government did not answer his questions about it.
Son Chhay, of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party, was one of a group of MPs who
last year requested a copy of the contract, as permitted by Cambodia's Constitution,
but were ignored.
Chhay said that, in the absence of answers from the government, the contract seemed
particularly suspicious and could warrant investigation. He intended to raise the
issue in the National Assembly and, if unhappy with the government's reply, seek
support for such an investigation.
"We know where to go to get that information but we need the right kind of support
to do so," he said.
"I think some elements in the CDC could provide good information, some people
at the Ministry of Tourism, and even the people who are working for Ariston themselves
could provide some sort of information [to investigators]."
Son Chhay acknowledged that some people believed his campaign over Ariston was on
behalf of Hun Sen, whom he has good relations with, but denied that was true.
"I am not making any secret deal with Hun Sen and gaining any personal benefit
or political gain from him. When it comes to the national interest, I always...speak
my own personal view."
He said he was happy to be described as Hun Sen's "god-brother", and to
accept an "open and friendly" relationship with the Prime Minister.
But he noted that "any contract since the formation of the Royal Government
must be signed by both Prime Ministers" and "anything wrong is the responsibility
of both Prime Ministers."
The Ariston contract was signed by Sun Chantol (Funcinpec) and also by the CPP Minister
in charge of the Council of Ministers, Sok An.