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Thursday, March 08, 2007

U.S. funding for Cambodia to drop by quarter in 2008

The United States funding for Cambodia is slated to drop 25 percent in fiscal year 2008 to 40.9 million U.S. dollars, from 54.9 million U.S. dollars in fiscal year 2006, local media said on Thursday.

"The projected cuts in funding in fiscal year 2008 are unrelated to conditions in Cambodia and are a function of a tight budgetary environment in Washington and realignment of global development priorities," U.S. Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle told the Cambodian Daily.

Funding for anti-human trafficking, promotion of labor rights and political party development after the 2008 national elections will no longer be focus areas for the U.S. assistance, he said.

It will turn to focus on developing democratic institutions, strengthening peace and security, establishing a health system that can respond to infectious disease outbreaks and encouraging market-driven economic growth, he said.

Meanwhile, Cheam Yeap, lawmaker from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), said that the proposed cut will not be felt deeply, as the U.S. doesn't provide much direct assistance to the Cambodian government.

"The U.S. cutting funds will not affect the government's programs and the government's budget," he said.

He also said that Cambodia has a wealth of other donors that it can turn to for assistance.

"China also gives us a lot of money for infrastructure," he added.

The proposed reduction comes amid a warm-up of the U.S.- Cambodian relations.

The U.S. has decided to resume direct aid for the Cambodian government after a decade of hiatus and a U.S. Navy vessel just paid an official visit to the kingdom's port city Sihanoukville.

In addition, under the terms of the 2007 U.S. budget resolution passed on Feb. 15, Cambodia will likely receive about 56 million U. S. dollars of aid this fiscal year, without any restrictions on direct government assistance.

Source: Xinhua

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UNICEF donates 140,000 USD for demining in Cambodia

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has donated more than 140,000 U.S. dollars for demining and landmine education in the western provinces of Cambodia for this year, an official said on Thursday.

The fund will be used for demining, education about danger of landmine and UXO (unexplosive ordnance), organizing spots for broadcasting on TV, building network to educate villagers in communities of landmine areas, Khem Sophoan, head of the Cambodia Mine Action Center (CMAC), told Xinhua on phone.

The money is for 26 districts in the western provinces of Cambodia, including Battambang, Preah Vihear, Oddar Mean Chey, Banteay Mean Chey and Pailin, where mines pose great danger for the communities, he said.

UNICEF has donated over one million U.S. dollars for CMAC since 1995, he said.

In the past two months of this year, mines killed over 10 people, including seven deminers of CMAC, he added.

According to official statistics, there were more than 400 human casualties over mine and UXO explosions in 2006 in Cambodia, or 50 percent decrease over the average number of the previous six years.

Due to 30 years of armed conflicts, Cambodia has become one of the world's most heavily mined countries with an estimated 4-6 million of such "hidden killers" buried underground in areas as extensive as 2,900 square kilometers.

It may take the kingdom another 150 years to clear out all the mines and UXO, statistics say.

Source: Xinhua

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