Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Govt seeks return of Lon Nol millions



Govt seeks return of Lon Nol millions

Govt seeks return of Lon Nol millions

The United States government may soon release $35 million of frozen funds to Cambodia,

Minister of Finance, Sam Rainsy, told a Phnom Penh press conference last week.

The money was removed from the Cambodian Treasury by Lon Nol during the collapse

of his government in early 1975.

Besides the government of Cambodia, there are a small number of private American

claims against the funds for monetary compensation.

The U.S. government is also considering making some claims against the money but

has yet to decide if they will pursue those claims, according to U.S. embassy spokesman

David Miller.

Ownership of the money is also being challenged by members of the Lon Nol family

but Sam Rainsy said he had assurances from senior State Department officials that

the money would be returned to Cambodia. "Even a bad lawyer could defend our

case," he told reporters.

The finance minister said he had begun negotiations with the U.S. State Department

for the return of the $35 million during his recent official trip to the United States

and Europe.

The minister also announced that salaries for all government employees, including

the police and military, would be increased by 20 percent and said the extra cash

would come from increased state revenues. Income to the national treasury has almost

doubled since June. Revenues in September were 23.8 billion riel up from 12.8 billion

riel collected in June.

Most of the increased revenue comes from import and export taxes. A customs official

at the port of Phnom Penh reports that government inspectors are working harder,

processing more goods and pocketing less money in bribes. In June, the government

told all its employees that "we will not move you from your jobs but we expect

a change in attitude."

"This has given them a new spirit, people know what they are working for,"

said the Minister. "We have had a fair and free election, now we must have fair

and free business and competition," he said.

Foreign investment is still slow coming to Cambodia. Sam Rainsy attended a meeting

on October 4 in Paris with the National Council of French Investors.

"They are very eager to invest but they have a wait and see attitude because

of the political uncertainty. We will be pleased to welcome more French investors

because we need a balanced economy with a diversity of investment rather than depending

on a single source," he said.

The Minister also announced that he had discussions with the Multilateral Investment

Guarantee Agency, a branch of the World Bank. Sam Rainsy hopes to reach an agreement

with the agency which would provide financial assurances to companies wishing to

invest in Cambodia.

"Companies must invest at their own risk without knowing the political future

which is not enough to attract investment to Cambodia," he said.

While in New York, Sam Rainsy met with Yasushi Akashi, the recently-departed head

of UNTAC. Mr Akashi had just completed negotiations with senior U.N. officials who

agreed to donate $17.9 million of UNTAC assets in Cambodia, including $15.9m of telecommunications

equipment and $2m of radio and television studios and hardware.

The minister confirmed that all current contracts signed before the election are

under review but said: "It will take some time to go through all the contracts.

We just don't have enough resources in the ministry."

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting