Lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) have launched a fierce attack
on the ASEAN summit, describing it as expensive irrelevance when one million Cambodians
are suffering from drought or flooding.
They released a statement urging Prime Minister Hun Sen to postpone the conference,
and said Cambodia should spend the money saved on helping those in need.
"The ASEAN summit is not a priority ... it is a waste of millions of dollars
from the national budget at a time when many Cambodians are living in a state of
emergency and need help," they said.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy told the Post that he plans a protest and strike for November
2. He said the country's ASEAN membership meant little to ordinary Cambodians.
"It would be better for the government to promote law enforcement and work against
corruption and the country's culture of impunity, rather than worry about ASEAN,"
Rainsy, a former finance minister, estimated the summit would cost Cambodia nearly
$10 million. He noted this came at a time when the government wanted international
aid to help flood and drought victims.
He also criticized "rampant corruption" widespread among some investors,
singling out those from fellow ASEAN nations Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. He
said their investments in areas such as natural resources and casinos merely enriched
corrupt government officials rather than benefiting the poor.
He claimed that Cambodia actually gets no economic benefit from ASEAN, with membership
hurting local industries which could not compete with imported and smuggled goods.
He concluded that membership of ASEAN was hurting local industries as Cambodia opened
up to other economies that could produce goods at less cost.
"The market for local products such as vegetables and fruit could be on the
verge of dying because there's no market for local produce, when imports are cheaper,"