The $1.2 million price tag for the AIPO meeting, which included a mid-week trip to
Siem Reap to tour the temples, was justified said Cambodia's Prince Norodom Ranariddh,
president of AIPO.
Responding to reporters at the close of the conference, Ranariddh said that while
it may seem like other countries spent less to host past AIPO sessions, this was
due to different funding structures.
However, concerns from the Malaysian delegation at spiraling costs and accountability
led to this paragraph being inserted into the final Joint Communique:
"The Assembly also reminded the AIPO Secretariat of the need for transparency,
greater clarity and precision in the drafting of the yearly financial report in order
to enable AIPO members to better monitor AIPO expenditure."
Son Chhay, a member of Sam Rainsy Party who took part in the meeting, criticized
the AIPO spending, saying last year's meeting in Indonesia cost only $600,000 while
in 2001 Thailand spent just $400,000.
Chhay accused the government of inflating costs, giving the example of the numerous
police motorbikes used in motorcades being billed at one liter of petrol for every
Delegates were also treated to a trip to visit Angkor Wat, which cost $56,000 in
airfares and at least $8,000 in transport, food and guides, according to organizers.
"All this is triple what it cost in reality," said Chhay, who took part
in the meeting. "I think corruption in this country is getting close to the
bone it's so deep."
Chhay also questioned what happened to $800,000 he claims was set aside for an AIPO
meeting planned for last year but moved due to the political deadlock in Cambodia.
"For some reason we could not find this money," said Chhay.
Cheam Yeap, director of the commission for finance and banking at the National Assembly
and member of a committee set up to account for AIPO money, could not provide more
detail about AIPO spending and hung the phone up twice when asked by the Post about
the money budgeted for the meeting last year.
Chan Ven, deputy secretary general of the National Assembly, denied that money was
put aside for last year's planned meeting.