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Monday, February 05, 2007

Calmy:Rey visit to Asia aims at new horizons

Swiss president Micheline Calmy:Rey is starting an official week:long visit to Cambodia and Indonesia on Monday.

While former French protectorate Cambodia is still trying to shake off its difficult past, Indonesia is undergoing a boom and is becoming an economic and political power in south:east Asia.

This initial part of Calmy: Rey's first trip abroad as Swiss president ? she is also the foreign minister ? will be devoted to marking a special anniversary. It is exactly 50 years since Switzerland recognised Cambodia on a diplomatic level.

In Phnom Penh, Calmy:Rey will meet King Norodom Sihamoni and other high:ranking officials to discuss economic, development, human rights and governance issues.

Apart from the events surrounding the anniversary, also on the agenda are visits to several Swiss development cooperation projects.

These have set priorities : Cambodia is still in a poor state of development and depends on international aid, which makes up almost two thirds of the kingdom's budget.

Calmy:Rey will therefore go the hospital at Kantha Bopha, one of four large health centres for children set up by Swiss doctor Beat Richner, with help from Swiss donations and funding from the government ? set to rise to SFr3 million ($2.4 million) in 2007.

"Beat Richner's projects contribute in a substantial way to the functioning of the Cambodian health system," Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Lars Knuchel told swissinfo.


On Wednesday Calmy:Rey is due to move on to Indonesia, a country that is undergoing a development boom ? the growth in gross domestic product for 2007 is estimated at six per cent ? and is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

"Indonesia is becoming an important political and economic partner. Switzerland is therefore very interested in broadening its relations with this country," said Knuchel.

According to Massimo Baggi, in charge of the Asia and Oceania department at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), practically all the large Swiss companies are active in Indonesia.

"It's a huge market, with many raw materials and which is developing well from a macroeconomic point of view. Our commercial relations are good and potential for growth is not lacking," he told swissinfo.

In the capital Jakarta, after meeting the authorities, Calmy: Rey will hold talks with leaders from different religions in the country, which is majority Muslim.

The problem of the coexistence of different cultures and religions is very topical in Indonesia, particularly given the backdrop of international tensions. In the past the country has been hit several times by attacks from Islamic groups.

"I have the impression that things are starting to normalise, even if some uncertainties remain," said Baggi. "It is however clear that security and stability are vital for economic relations."

The Swiss delegation will conclude its south:east Asia visit on Saturday, February 10 with a trip to the Indonesian province of Aceh, at the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, which was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami. The wave left almost 170,000 people dead and a huge amount of destruction.

In Aceh, Calmy: Rey will be inaugurating an important drinking water plant which has been rebuilt using Swiss funds at a cost of SFr4 million.

"In the framework of humanitarian aid and reconstruction after the tsunami, Switzerland has up until now invested altogether around SFr12.5 million in Indonesia," said Knuchel.

The Swiss government has for some time been supporting the peace process in Aceh, which from 1976:2005, was in the throws of a secessionist conflict.

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Cambodia's Highway 78 link with Vietnam's border upgraded

12:57' 05/02/2007

VietNamNet Bridge – The upgrade of Cambodia's Highway 78 which links with Vietnam's border started in Ban Lung town in the border province of Rattanakiri on February 4.

The 70km-long and 9m-wide Highway 78, which runs from Ban Lung through Bokeo and Oyada towns in Cambodia to Vietnam's border-gate Le Thanh, will be completed in 30 months at a cost of US$25.8mil, paid for by the Vietnamese Government's preferential credits.

Speaking at the upgrading ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong said that the two countries' cooperation in the upgrade project does not only affirm the efforts and determination to strengthen bilateral ties by both the Vietnamese and Cambodian Governments and people but also reflects time-honoured friendly cooperation between the two countries.

As soon as it is completed, the highway will benefit the Cambodian people and the Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia development triangle as it will create an additional East-West corridor connecting Cambodia's Rattanakiri Province with the Central Highlands and central sea ports in Vietnam, said Deputy PM Trong.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his thanks to the Vietnamese Government and people for their whole-hearted support for Cambodia in upgrading its Highway 78.

The upgrade of Highway 78 is necessary for Cambodia's northeastern provinces, facilitating the exchange of farm products and other commodities in the region, elaborated PM Hun Sen.

This is an initial step for Rattanakiri province as well as Cambodia to integrate into the development triangle area, he affirmed.

The Cambodian PM also thanked the Vietnamese Government for its help in building a boarding school in Ban Lung town and a market in the centre of Oyada Town in Rattanakiri Province.

In the context of many difficulties, the sharing and assistance of the Vietnamese Government and people to the Cambodian Government and people re-affirmed the solidarity, friendship and cooperation between the two nations and people, which have been fostered through many historical periods, noted the Cambodian Governmental leader.

(Source: VNA)
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