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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Not Enough Cambodians Pitching In for Development: Volunteers

Diep Sovannaroth, left, a program assistant for UN Volunteers, and Chhuon Thavrith, right, a former volunteer at UN Volunteers who now works for UNDP, were our guests on 'Hello VOA' on Monday.

If more Cambodians do not start pitching in and volunteering, the country risks missing key development goals in coming years, a youth advocate said Monday.

Cambodia is trying to meet a series of UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015, but it is lagging behind in key sectors. And while there are a number of foreign volunteers working in the country, there is not enough local help, Diep Sovannaroth, a program assistant for UN Volunteers, told “Hello VOA.”

“Only when we Cambodians ourselves contribute to the solutions to existing challenges or problems will the country develop,” she said. “So volunteerism plays a very important role here.”

Cambodia marked the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers last week, as development officials called on more volunteer activities to push the country towards its 2015 goals.

“You can be a part-time volunteer with an organization wherever you see a problem and think you can offer a hand to help fix it,” Diep Sovannaroth said. “Then you become part of the solution.”

Visal, a “Hello VOA” caller from Kampong Cham province, said that the idea of volunteering is not new to Cambodians, but few seem eager to take on volunteer work. And there is little encouragement from the government.

“Apart from youth community participation, why doesn’t the government encourage them to voluntarily engage in its work too?” Visal asked.

Sarom, a caller from Phnom Penh, said volunteer work should be encouraged at universities “across the country.”

Chhuon Thavrith, a former volunteer at UN Volunteers who now works for UNDP, who was also a guest on Monday, said volunteer work does more than develop the country; it helps boost personal development as well.

“Being a volunteer gives us self-worth when we sacrifice for the cause of development and peace in the country,” said Chhuon Thavrith, who also volunteered recently in the vote to split the new country of South Sudan from Sudan. “As workers, we are proud to have contributed to building history and…to gain experience for future jobs.”
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Suthep insists 'secret talks' allegations a Hun Sen plot

Allegations of "secret talks" about the overlapping maritime area levelled by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen are only an attempt to discredit the Democrat Party, says former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban.

Mr Suthep, now a Democrat list MP, was responding to Hun Sen's comments during a press interview that he and Mr Suthep held secret talks at his residence at Ta Khmau in Kandal province about the overlapping Gulf of Thailand maritime area, rich in oil and natural gas.

A Cambodian website, called 15th Move, posted Hun Sen's comment which was on the website of the Cambodian Prime Minister's Office and published in Cambodia's Koh Santipheap daily.

"Suthep visited Cambodia three times. The first visit was in April to convince [me] to attend the Asean meeting in Pattaya ...

"Later he came to Cambodia again, along with the defence minister, but they did not talk about oil issues. On June 27, my wife did the cooking for them.

"But it was strange that Mr Suthep brought with him a document about an oil block in the sea and told me that Mr Abhisit [Vejjajiva, then prime minister] assigned him to ensure the negotiations were concluded during the Abhisit government.

"But I responded by saying that I have my deputy prime minister responsible for overseeing the matter. I cannot be a negotiator with Your Excellency ..."

"Since leaving office, Mr Abhisit came out to attack [Cambodia] saying that the two countries are at odds because the Thai government [when Abhisit was prime minister] _ did not serve Cambodia's interests.

"I wanted to say to Abhisit that if the previous government was at odds [with Cambodia], so who sent the negotiators for secret talks?" the website quoted Hun Sen as saying.

Mr Suthep said it was clear that Hun Sen had now sided with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Hun Sen's actions were intended to protect Thaksin, not Cambodia's interests, Mr Suthep said. He admitted meeting Hun Sen but denied the talks were intended to remain secret.
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