Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Words from the party leaders

I intended to write about the parties before the election, but a functioning internet connection was nowhere to be found in Svay Rieng, and then I got back home and left for a month in Dalarna where I don't have internet connection either...

Anyway, even if the election is in the passed, I think it might be interesting to read about what the parties said they wanted to change if they won the election. Cambodian Daily had a series of interviews with senior leaders in the five biggest parties during the week before the election.

Sam Rainsy, president of the Sam Rainsy Party, SRP, which has been the most popular party among students for many years, said to Cambodia Daily that the party's three top issues are employment, to stop the inflation, and free healthcare. He said that SRP wants to approve and then implement the anti-corruption law. This would, according to him, make Cambodia more attractive for investors, spur competition, improve the collection of state revenue, and make sure that donated medicines will be free for the poor patients - as intended by the donors - instead of being stolen by government officials and sold to a high prize. Sam Rainsy further claimed that CPP (the ruling party, which won this years election as well) attracts big companies to buy land, but SRP doesn't want investors to focus on land speculation, they want investors to process products in Cambodia. They also want to encourage small and medium-sized farms instead of mega-sized farms where farmers don't own their own land.

Sam Rainsy also addressed the problem with parallell budgets, and the fact that CPP's budget is higher than the state budget. That means for example that schools are not built by the government but by CPP, and are presented with Hun Sen's (the president of the CPP) name on them as a CPP/Hun Sen donation:
It is totally ridiculous this patronage culture mentality, this beggar mentality, making people dependant on donations from the CPP. This is backward, it cannot help the country move forward. So we have to put things right.
The Human Rights Party, HRP, was formed in 2007 by Kem Sokha, former president of the NGO Cambodian Center for Human Rights. Now being the president of Human Rights Party, Kem Sokha told Cambodia Daily that his party believes there are three main obstacles to the development of Cambodia: The dictatorship, corrupt leaders and that the leaders are dependant on foreigners. He said that one of the first things HRP would do if they won the election is to approve the anti-corruption law. Another very important thing to HRP is to make the judicial system independent. Kem Sokha claimed that now there are judges and court official who want to be independent, but pressure leaves them with no choice but to stay affiliated with the CPP. Kem Sokha did also, just like Sam Rainsy, address the problem with lost tax revenue because of corruption. He claimed Cambodia have a good tax law, but the law is not implemented. He said that HRP want to change the current situation where the poor are paying taxes for the rich. He claimed that owners of big land holdings do not pay tax now, since they are affiliated with CPP.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party, was removed from the Funcinpec Party presidency in late 2006 and then formed the NRP. He said to Cambodia Daily that NRP depends on and are hoping to get support from people that are unhappy with illegal immigration. He further acknowledged the problem with a small minority of the richest and the powerful owning most of the land in Cambodia. He pointed out that Cambodia should not have to be poor being a country with only 14 million people and rich on natural resources. Ranariddh also said that his party wants to approve the anti-corruption law and implement it towards everyone. He said he doesn't find it likely that a CPP-led government will approve it, "It's been 1994 ut to now..." (the draft anti-corruption law was submitted when Ranariddh was prime minister in 1994).

About the problem with getting support because of the split in the royalist political movement, Ranariddh said he has a lot of followers and:
They [the people who removed him from the Funcinpec presidency] forget that without Norodom Ranariddh, Funcinpec is not Funcinpec. Funcinpec was Ranariddh Norodom.
Funcinpec's new president and Cambodia's deputy prime minister, Keo Puth Rasmey, said to Cambodia Daily that "the split used to be an issue, but I don't believe it is anymore for us. First of all, I don't call it a split, because Funcinpec is still Funcinpec...". Keo Puth Rasmey said Funcinpec has the political will to make changes. He admitted that he does not know much about economic problem-solving or he best way to reduce corruption, but he said that how to do something is not the problem. He claimed that the main problem today is lack of political will:
All we need is political will, the rest is technical - you can open a book on how to solve inflation - this is no problem.
Cambodian People's Party's Cheam Yeap, the chairman of the National Assembly's banking and finance commission and a member of the Standing Committee of the CPP Central Committee, said to Cambodia Daily that they will find all ways to decrease the price of goods and the price of food. He also pointed out that CPP has created more than 600 000 jobs in Cambodia, while none of the other parties have created any jobs at all. He said that CPP are obliged to strengthen existing laws and make new laws in order to find potential revenue. Cheam Yeap claimed that CPP wants to approve the anti-corruption law and that the reason for the delay is that they want advice from the international community so that the law, when it is adopted, will be a law that is useful and effective for a very long time. He further claimed that if CPP would win the election the law will be adopted in late 2008. "We want to do whatever it takes to get this law adopted".

He further claimed that there has not been much done about the land dispute because the deputy chief of the national committee for solving land dispute, Sam Rainsy Party's Eng Chhay Eang, was playing cards instead of solving things. He also informed Cambodia Daily that when CPP was leading the country alone land grabbing was not a problem since nobody dared to do this (from what I've heard they will stay in coalition with Funcinpec, even though they got a simple majority of the votes which is what is needed nowadays to form a government on one's own...).

When being asked about the heavy criticism from NGO's and international organisations such as the UN, The World Bank and the US State Department, Cheam Yeap said CPP agreed to some of the criticism, and that it is important to consider criticism in order to be better going forward. But he also claimed that much of the heavy criticism are based on reports from opposition parties that want to spoil the CPP's reputation and popularity in order to destroy the party, and that this criticism is very unjust.

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