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Friday, March 02, 2007

Deputy PM to visit US and attend AMM Retreat in Cambodia

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Gia Khiem will pay an official visit from March 11-16 to the United States to strengthen bilateral ties, announced a spokesman on March 1.

Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Dung said the visit, to be made at the invitation of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, aims at boosting the increasingly active momentum in relations between Vietnam and the US, as well as promoting economic, trade, scientific, technological and educational ties.

Measures to implement agreements reached during US President George W. Bush’s visit to Vietnam last November will also be discussed during Deputy PM Khiem’s trip, added the spokesman. (VNA)

* Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Pham Gia Khiem will attend the annual ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) Retreat slated for March 1-2 in Siem Reap, Cambodia..

The meeting is scheduled to discuss measures for implementing tasks set at the 12th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the building of an ASEAN Charter and an ASEAN community by 2015, said Le Dung, the spokesman of the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry on March 1.

The event will also touch upon issues related to the bloc's foreign relations, with focus on preparations for summit meetings to celebrate the establishment of ties between ASEAN and its dialogue countries, and the 16th ASEAN-EU Foreign Ministers' Meeting, as well as co-operation among ASEAN members.

ASEAN, which was founded in 1967, groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (VNA)

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Cambodia: Government accused of more evictiions

The Cambodian government has again been accused of forcibly evicting thousands of urban dwellers from prime real estate in Phnom Penh after it signed a deal with a development company to relocate thousands of residents from a popular tourism area in the capital.

Presenter/Interviewer: Steve Holland

Speakers: The Executive Director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, Pa Nguon Tean; Bou Saroeun, from the World Bank's Cambodian office.
HOLLAND: The Beong Kak lake area is a bustling tourism precinct in the heart of Phnom Penh. It's also home to more than 4,000 low-income families. However, a recent contract means thousands of villagers must leave their homes to make way for development as Cambodia steps up its efforts to boost its tourism industry.

The Executive Director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, Pa Nguon Teang, says sinister motives are behind the deal.
TEANG: We suspect that the corruption is a motive behind the funding.

HOLLAND: The agreement was reached between the Governor of Phnom Penh Kep Chuk Tema and the Soka Ko In Company. Under the deal the company has been awarded a 99-year lease of the Beoung Kok site, covering an area of 133 hectares. The area is planned to be developed as a commercial, cultural and tourism centre. Pa Nguon Teang says the government gave residents little warning of the development.
TEANG: The government didn't give any clear information to the public and there is no transparency of the signing of the contract and no information about the project.

HOLLAND: He says a string of social problems will follow as a result of the development.
TEANG: We worry about the violation of the rights of people. If the people will be evicted and a lot of problem that will have to be faced. For example, their children will lose access to school.

HOLLAND: The deal allows the company to develop the large body of water in Beong Kak - it's one of seven natural lakes in Phnom Penh which are said to be crucial to city's drainage.
Pa Nguon Teang warns the proposed development also presents environmental threats which could impact on the entire city.
TEANG: If the government allows the company to fill up the lake and that's a problem for the people in the capital as a whole.

HOLLAND: The Governor of Phnom Penh, Kep Chuk Tema, was unavailable for comment. However, in a statement obtained by Radio Australia, the governor's office said..

GOVERNOR: The Governor on behalf of Phnom Penh residents expresses his profound thanks to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who provides the possibility for the City Hall to reach the investment agreement. The municipality of Phnom Penh will work together with the company to turn the Beong Kak site into a nice centre in central Phnom Penh.

HOLLAND: Creating incentives to lure more tourists features high on the government's agenda. And Bou Saroeun from the World Bank's Cambodian office, says the tourism industry is vital to Cambodia's economy.
SAROEUN: The tourist sector is Cambodia's second most important foreign exchange earner. Cambodia saw a 20 per cent growth in international tourists arrival in 2006, which is 1.7 million international tourists arrive Cambodia in 2006. And the tourist industry is crucial for the Cambodian economy.

HOLLAND: It's not the first time Phnom Pehn residents have faced the prospect of relocation to make way for development. But it's believed the planned development of the Beong Kak area will result in the greatest displacement of Cambodians since 1989. And, as Cambodia's economy continues to strengthen, many feel it will be poor who pay the price for the country's new-found wealth. .

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