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US funds for Mekong

THE United States announced that it would give $161 million in aid this year to lower Mekong countries, including Cambodia. The announcement came during the first-ever meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and four ASEAN foreign ministers on Thursday during the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket.

The money, to be split among Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, will go towards the countries' environment, health and education sectors.

The US Embassy in Phnom Penh released a State Department statement Friday saying that the greatest part of the money - more than $138 million - will go to the health sector, in particular projects related to HIV/AIDS, pandemic flu, malaria and tuberculosis. More than $7 million will go towards environment projects, while $16 million will go towards education projects.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had arrived back in Cambodia on Friday following the Phuket meeting. He could not provide further details on the meeting with Clinton.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said he approved of Washington's decision to give money for education, though he said new government policies rather than foreign aid were needed to improve education equality in Cambodia.

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