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Friday, April 25, 2008

Cambodia hopes to export 8 mn tonnes of rice by 2015: minister

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): Cambodia expects to be able to export eight million tonnes of rice per year by 2015, Khmer-English language newspaper the Mekong Times on Friday quoted Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Chan Sarun as saying.

"We will encourage farmers to crop twice or three times a year and further strengthen irrigation systems in order to increase rice production," the minister told an exhibition of natural agricultural products held on Thursday in Kampong Chhnang province, stressing that the country has three million hectares of agricultural land.

Yang Saing Koma, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, agreed that the harvest could be boosted.

"Cambodia has vast tracts of land and current rice output is still low. We believe that Cambodia can achieve the goal, " he said, adding that the government must invest more in the agricultural sector so that farmers have resources and techniques to increase rice yields.

In fact, he said, the kingdom could produce up to 10 million tonnes of rice in the next four or five years.

According to official statistics, Cambodia had a surplus of over two million tonnes of paddy rice from a total harvest of 6.72 million in 2007. High-quality rice sells around one U.S. dollar a kilogram currently in Cambodia.

Last month, the government imposed a ban on rice export and released its stockpile to the market to curb spiraling rice prices.

The inflation occurred reportedly as a result of world food shortage and over purchase of Cambodian rice by Vietnamese and Thai businessmen.

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Audit says management of Cambodian tribunal has improved after calls for reform

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal is making significant progress in improving management problems that led to accusations of corruption, donors said Friday after a new audit.

Allegations of kickbacks and malpractice have dogged Cambodian members of the tribunal. An earlier audit initiated by the U.N. found shortcomings in its management.

The long-delayed U.N.-assisted tribunal to judge former Khmer Rouge leaders has also been plagued by political wrangling and inadequate financing.

Trials are scheduled to start later this year for atrocities committed during the 1975-79 rule of the communist Khmer Rouge, who are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

The tribunal has Cambodian and international staff who work jointly at every level, including prosecutors, defenders and judges.

A new audit scrutinizing the Cambodian side's operations shows reforms have been effective, two diplomats from the United Nations and the European Commission said.

"This special review has shown that we (now) have a system that can work," Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d'affaires of the European Commission's mission to Cambodia, told reporters.

Jo Scheuer, country director for the U.N. Development Program, said the audit showed "significant improvements."

He said various audits since 2006 on management of the funds for the Cambodian side have shown "no questionable financial transactions, no misallocated resources and no incomplete or missing documentation in support of disbursements" of money.

He also added that previous auditors have found "no conclusive evidence" to support the allegations of kickbacks being paid by Cambodian personnel in exchange for their jobs.

Scheuer and Moreno are members of a committee made up of representatives of the nations and agencies funding the tribunal. It commissioned the independent review by a private Indian auditing firm to look into hiring and recruitment practices, salary scales, project assurance and a code of conduct for the tribunal's Cambodian staff.

The tribunal has been seeking additional funds for operations through March 2011. It told donor countries in January it would need US$170 million (€108 million), a sharp increase from the originally budgeted US$56.3 million (€36 million).

Rama Yade, the French minister of state for foreign affairs and human rights, told a news conference Friday that her government has pledged an additional US$1 million (€630,000) to the tribunal for this year.
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