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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bold Carere opens up in Siem Reap

Bold Carere opens up in Siem Reap

SIEM REAP - Security troubles and funding shortages have not deterred one NGO

from opening a new office in town.

Carere (Cambodia Resettlement and

Reintegration), is an agency of the United Nations Development Program set up in

July 1992 to assist returnees from Thai border camps.

In an interview

with the Post after the opening of the new office in late June, Siem Reap

district manager Mitch Carlson said: "I'm cautiously optimistic but always at

the back of the mind is the security problem and the funding problem."

He said the potential for trouble is always there and when his convoy

traveled from Sisophon to Siem Reap on June 18 it was held up for several hours

by government troops fighting each other and six bridges which had been

destroyed.

Despite many NGOs confining their work to the town and its

immediate surroundings, Carlson hopes Carere will be able to get out into the

field but is aware many places are off-limits. He says no-one is really working

east of Siem Reap.

He would like to replicate the days of Untac when

people came together and he hopes to integrate different political factions in

the province through measures such as schools.

"Politics would not be a

barrier to going to areas to do development activity, if security permits, if

funding permits," he said.

Carere has a million dollar funding shortfall

which it tried to rectify at a donor's meeting in Bangkok at the end of May. It

received a $2 million pledge from the EC and is waiting for funding from Holland

and Sweden. Carlson says Carere hopes to attract new donors from the US, Japan

and Germany.

The money will be used for development programs in

agriculture, education, hydrology, income generation, water and sanitation.

Carlson said Carere also has plans to open offices in Takeo and an

eastern province and to keep their office going in Pursat, Battambang and

Sisophon.

He added that Carere is also taking over UNHCR's functions

though the nature of both groups work was changing.

He said Carere

programs to help returnees would cease at the end of the year and there would be

a greater emphasis placed on helping internally displaced people, widows and the

handicapped.

He says the winding down of the repatriation program will

have implications for organizations like Concern, Help the Aged and the World

Food Program who will have to redefine themselves. Carlson sees "quite a few

agencies making that change in the next year."

As for Carere's future,

Carlson says he will be careful not to make promises he can not keep and so the

office will develop slowly, kicking off with four expatriate staff.

He

says many of the potential limits are out of his hands such as land mines,

harassment on the roads and villages changing hands several times making it

impossible to work.

Carlson is looking on the bright side though. "These

are problems we had to deal with before but hopefully we won't have to in the

future," he said.

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