Malaysian “Investments” – Saturday, 15.5.2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 664
After having been knocked out late on Monday, 10.5.2010, by a bad, but not clearly identified intestinal infection, I am sorry that I could not earlier, and cannot more speedily, catch up again, but maybe it will be done by Monday, 17.5.2010, noon.
Because of the King’s Birthday National Holiday on 13.5.2010, which was extended into further days, it is now intended to have publications, during the current week, only for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Editor of the Mirror
I welcome to see Comments in response to publications on The Mirror. When there are Comments, I consider them not as “Letters to the Editor,” but as comments, and I hope other readers may also comment on the Comments.
But the the special situation of this week allows me to respond directly to one comment in detail.
In response to our translated article headline “Malaysian Investors and Investments Are Coming to Cambodia while Cambodia Is Still Unable to Export Its Products” on Monday, 10.5.2010, there was the following Comment noted:
“Do you find this investment not good to your country??”
The “you” is obviously not myself, but the journalist of Khmer Amatak who wrote the article – or all readers in Cambodia. But I will present some subsequent information from the local press.
Before the Billion-Dollar – US$! – deals were signed, there was not much known about their content, only that they would have a total volume of about US$1 billion. This is somewhat surprising, as Article 90 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia says: “The National Assembly is an organ which has legislative power, and performs its duties as provided for in the constitution and laws. The National Assembly shall approve the national budget, State planning, loans, financial contracts, and the creation, modification and annulment of tax.” As the financial contracts would also involve one between a Malaysian private company and the Cambodian government, some information towards the National Assembly and the public might have been expected.
All reports in the press welcomed this huge Malaysian investment – for example the spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, was quoted in The Cambodia Daily saying “he was aware of the deals and believed that the investment would be a huge plus for the Cambodian economy.”
The climate of the reporting changed later, however, after it was revealed that the major part of the deals – the contract between the Malaysian company Nexbis and the Cambodian government (to provide items to print, including identity cards, passports, and visa – the contract is with the Cambodian Ministry of Interior) was not a Malaysian investment, but a contract for which the Cambodian government will have to pay US$700 million – an amount which corresponds to about 35% of the Cambodian government’s budget for 2010. This payment obligation covers the major part of the “one billion deal” which had been considered to be Malaysian investments in Cambodia.
Some comments were reported in The Cambodia Daily:
- “That’s a very sizable sum” – Bretton Sciaroni, chairman of the International Business Club.
- “I am in darkness. I know nothing” – the spokesperson of the Ministry of Information, Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak.
- No information provided – the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Koy Kuong.
- National Police spokesperson Kirth Chanthatith said he did not know “what was going on.”
- Ministry of Interior foreign police department in charge of visas Pen Piseth said he knew nothing.
- Deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s passport department said he was completely unaware of the deal.
- The director of the Immigration Department of the National Police Thong Lim: “I do not know about the deal.”
- The Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance and Economy Hang Chuon Naron said he was unaware of the deal, “I don’t have any information about this. But I think it is not realistic.”
No surprise that now the question is raised, how this deal was concluded – obviously without an open process of competitive bidding. And the question of priorities, to find US$700 million for one of the biggest single deal ever entered into, has not been discussed in the National Assembly, responsible for the national budget.
And in addition, questions are raised about the nature of the company Nexbis – formerly Entertainment Media & Telecoms Corporation – which was hardly known in Cambodia. Now more and more information is coming from Australia, where Nexbis is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange – but it has not reported the Cambodian deal.
In closing, I repeat the Comment received. It is a question to the readers of The Mirror: “Do you find this investment not good to your country?”
Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
And please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.