A recent visit by the Irish deputy Foreign Minister brought electrifying results
when he presided over the reopening of some of the capital's power generators.
Tom Kitt was near the end of a four-day trip to Cambodia, the first official visit
by an Irish minister, when he made the trip out to Phnom Penh's Power Plant No 3,
near the airport.
When repairs got underway, parts were found to be missing and one of the enormous
generator sets had disappeared.
Irish experts stepped in to spark up the system, supported by Irish bilateral aid,
and the generators are now set to boost the capital's overstretched system.
Mr Kitt said that as a small country in the European Community, Ireland "likes
to pick practical ways to help".
The Cambodian Minister for Industry, Mines and Energy, Pou Sothirak, praised Ireland
for being "among the first donor countries to make a major contribution".
Michael Hoey of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said the Cambodian Government
had identified three areas where Irish aid is sought: more technical and financial
help with energy, human resource development and English language teachers.
Mr Kitt, known as the "minister for development" in his home country, said
the Irish people have shown strong evidence of their interest in Cambodia through
involvement with UNTAC and with various NGOs.
He also visited provincial projects run by Irish NGOs Concern and Trocaire.
One which left an impression was the Concern project in Kompong Speu where the minister's
delegation was shocked by the mine injuries and deaths.
Concern field director Breda Gahon was ending a two year assignment in the area and
she emphasized the need for mine clearance as an urgently required preventive health
And at a school, Mr Kitt met the sad sister of a boy who died recently in a mine
Moved by what he saw the minister contacted the British demining charity Halo Trust
and made an on-the-spot pledge to give funding for their work in the area.
Concern has seen the building of two health clinics in Kompong Speu.
The new wooden one was built to replace the previous clinic which was destroyed in
a Khmer Rouge rocket-attack last spring.
Nearby, stands the remains of a once solidly-built concrete clinic.
Concern has trained local health workers under a government-approved course which
field director Breda Gahon was instrumental in drawing up and implementing.
A fluent Khmer-speaker, she is legendary in the province for her energy and commitment
to sound health practices. The incompetent and corrupt are said to make themselves
scarce on her approach.
Before she left, Ms Gahon awarded certificates to local health workers at community
and district level. They said she would be sorely missed.