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Floods May Delay Summits in Cambodia - 2002-10-22

Opposition party leaders have appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen to delay upcoming regional summits in the capital, calling the event too costly for a country struck by devastating floods and drought this year.

Leaders of Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy Party have petitioned the government to postpone the summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Greater Mekong Sub Region scheduled for the beginning of November.

Party leaders sent a signed statement to the prime minister saying the millions of dollars the treasury will spend on the meeting could be better used providing food for impoverished Cambodians.

Son Chhay is an opposition lawmaker who signed the petition. "It will be no less than $10 million. It's a lot of money to just give regional leaders first class hospitality. But I don't think any agreements will come out to help deal with the corruption and poverty reduction. But a lot of entertainment will be provided," he says. "So why do we need entertainment when a million people are hungry in this country."

Government officials have refused to disclose the amount of being spent on the summits, when a dozen heads of state and hundreds of government officials will arrive in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Cambodian officials and relief workers have ruled out the possibility that a combination of flooding in areas along the Mekong River and drought across the country will create a famine this year, but said that damage to crops could affect least half a million people.

Some 3.4 million people were affected by the droughts and floods this year and about $30 million worth of rice crops have already been destroyed.