Poverty a bigger threat than Khmer Rouge : Hun Sen

POVERTY is a bigger threat to Cambodia than the Khmer Rouge, Co-Premier Hun Sen said yesterday while calling on the global community to help in the nation’s reconstruction efforts with more investments.

The Khmer Rouge had “reached an all-time low” in terms of its threat to the country, he said. But the threat from widespread poverty was all-pervading.

Speaking in Khmer at the Rotary International’s 90th anniversary dinner celebrations, he said:

“Everyone is aware that all the problems created by two decades of war would not be solved in just one or two years.”

What Cambodia needed now, he stressed, was private investments on a massive scale to lift it from its poverty by improving production and creating jobs. He said that the international community was providing substantial assistance but this was not enough.

“Cambodia has just emerged from nearly 25 years of war, destruction and violence and the path of national reconstruction and economic development is long and difficult.”

Mr Hun Sen, who arrived yesterday on a three-day private visit, called on Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. He will also meet top local and foreign businessmen during his stay here.

In his address to 400 businessmen and diplomats attending the dinner at Mandarin Hotel, he said that Phnom Penh was taking steps to create “favourable conditions” for foreign investors. This included passing a liberal investment law in August last year.

Since the law was passed, more than 57 investment projects have been signed worth about US$2 billion (S$2.9 billion), creating 32,000 jobs in a country where unemployment is widespread.

Mr Hun Sen said Phnom Penh was determined to overcome any obstacle to promote Cambodia’s economic development.

He said that the formation of the royal government in 1993 headed by two Prime Ministers had created conditions for political stability.

Mr Hun Sen said the “excellent rapport” now between leaders of the Cambodia People’s Party and the Funcinpec party madeit easier to form a national army merging the former armies of three factions which used to fight each other.

“The political situation right now is more favourable than any other time of the last 25 years,” he said.

On the Khmer Rouge, Mr Hun Sen said the government was encouraging its fighters to defect to the national and many haddone so.

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