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Khmer sets sights on Canada's Parliament

S oeung Tang from Cambodia's Takeo province is the first Khmer to run for the Canadian Parliament, for the Liberal Party. He spoke to Charles McDermid about his career and the challenges for Cambodia.

Please explain the situation that led to your arrival in Canada in 1980?

I was born in Cambodia in 1968 in Ansom district, Takeo Province. Before the Khmer Rouge, my family had a business there.

When the Khmer Rouge invaded, my family of eight was under the regime for the whole period. In 1979, when the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia, my family were obliged to leave the country for Thailand's refugee camps.

We stayed in the camp for one year and then went to Canada as refugees sponsored by a small town in the Canadian province of Quebec. I got my degree in business administration at the business school in Montreal and in 2001 I went on to become an international consultant on development projects between Canada and Cambodia.

I have been involved in Canadian politics since 1993 as an executive member of Young Politicians. In the past seven years, I have been travelling all over Cambodia and I'm very attached to my country and hope that one day I can contribute to its development and success.

What was your role as an election observer in 1998?

I was chosen as a Canadian observer in the Cambodian election of 1998 supported by the United Nations in Kampong Cham. That was my first return to Cambodia in 19 years.

I was working in Tbom Kmom and Ponear Krek. We were 18 Canadian observers and I was the only one of Khmer origin in my province. That mission allowed me to learn more about my country and I still love it. I gave briefings about Cambodia's situation to all Canada's ambassadors to Phnom Penh since 1993.

Could you tell us about your political philosophy and your goals as a member of government?

I support the democratic system and political stability. The reason I got to the stage of running in election for the Canadian parliament is because I want to contribute to the Canadian development and to support the Cambodian development too. I want to see Cambodia grow up as a stable country as well.

I also would like to support and promote more programs and international help to Cambodia. As a Canadian member of parliament, I can do a lot of things both inside and outside the country.

I have many Canadian friends who are now Members of Parliament and Ministers in Canada and that makes it easier to work together in Parliament. I also have a very good relationship with the Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin.

How do you see the two countries working together in the future?

I think Cambodia has developed a lot since 1998. The political situation seems stable. After the election, I will probably make an official visit with Canadian senators if I am elected. Canada has always supported Cambodia's development and they have kept a good relationship.

If I am elected, I will ask the Prime Minister to install a Canadian embassy in Phnom Penh with all the services, including immigration.

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