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Hun Sen proposes regional fund

PRIME Minister Hun Sen suggested to the leaders of Laos and Vietnam yesterday that a fund to help development of a triangular region between the three countries be created.

Speaking at a meeting at Phnom Penh's Peace Building, the premier highlighted plans to deepen cooperation through the 2010 to 2020 “master plan” for economic growth in the CLV-Development Triangle Area.

“Since financing remains a big challenge for all of us, I would suggest that we address this issue by initiating the establishment of a CLV Fund to mobilise financial resources to fund projects,” he said.

“Japan has already provided a US$20 million grant for the development of the area in order to ensure concrete and fruitful outcome of this cooperation,” he said.

The cross-border CLV region was created in 1999 to support agriculture, energy, tourism and trade industries through coordinating infrastructure projects, developing human resources and facilitating the flow of people and capital.  

It comprises 13 provinces and 6.5 million people across the three countries, including Mondulkiri, Rattanakiri, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces in Cambodia.

The need for joint development was emphasised during yesterday's meeting, as the regions economies emerged from the effects of the world economic crisis.

Hun Sen said yesterday: “The strengthening of cooperation is truly crucial in the regional and global context after the recent global financial crisis.”

He also urged his counterparts to adopt a proposal for preferential policies to benefit business and investment.

The prime minister also said that prioritisation was key to the area’s success.

“CLV countries are facing the shortages of financial resources for the implementation of many programs and projects,” he said.

“I believe that, firstly, we should commit to primarily short-listing a number of prioritised projects from our cooperation sectors – such as infrastructure, trade and investment, social development and cultural conservation, agro-industry, tourism and the environment.”

High-ranking Cambodian officials stated that progress had already been made.

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, who chairs a CLV coordinating committee, said CLV countries had already made improvements by signing agreements to loosen visa restrictions. Citizens from the three countries are free to visit neighbouring areas without visas for 30 days, while border passes have been extended from three to seven days, he said.

CLV countries have also reduced temporary work visa fees to $80 per year, and Cambodian and Vietnam have increased the daily quota of vehicles crossing the border. Looking ahead, he said, the neighbours had agreed to develop a common border pass for tourism, business and social purposes.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said he thought that the promotion of local currency instead of the dollar in cross-border trade was an example of strong cooperation amongst the three
countries.

The fifth Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam summit also convened at the Peace Building in Phnom Penh yesterday. ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan attended the meeting and “saluted” the four premiers for their cooperation.

“Only through full participation in the activities of the [free] market can we expect to unleash all the potential that each of the four countries has to offer,” he said.

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