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Disaster law set for passage in 2011

A draft disaster management law will be submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval in early 2011, National Committee for Disaster Management vice president Nhim Vanda said Thursday during a consultative meeting on the issue in Phnom Penh.

Nhim Vanda said he hoped the law would be adopted by the National Assembly and the Senate and signed by the King by the end of 2011.

A team of Cambodian disaster experts, with the participation of international NGOs and specialists from the United Nations, had been working on the law since 2007, he said.

Nhim Vanda said those involved in writing the law had collected input from local and national authorities and sought to make it “parallel” to laws in other countries, including ASEAN member states. He hopes to “establish an international standard” with the new law.

The draft would cover a wide range of events including the Diamond Island stampede, epidemics of disease and even climate change, he noted.

“We have difficulty doing our work in response to disasters happening in Cambodia because we have no law on disaster management,” said Hou Taing Eng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Planning, who said the draft law would help protect people’s lives.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Kimsour Phirith said Cambodia now lacks the capacity to respond adequately to disasters, but even that was tainted.

Kimsour Phirith said he observed political discrimination in past disaster response efforts carried out by local arms of the Cambodian Red Cross, which is headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany.

“They discriminate against those who are not the members of the ruling government, which is not a good way to help or rescue the people who are affected by disasters,” he said.

He also said the law must “clearly express in detail the financial management and expenditures” of disaster response efforts for the sake of transparency and fighting corruption, and promised to raise his concerns in parliamentary debate.

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