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Chhon to ink Aust aid MoU

Chhon to ink Aust aid MoU

A ROYAL Government delegation is to fly to Australia to sign an umbrella Memorandum of Understanding on Oct 27 governing the disbursement of A$92 million in aid from Canberra over the next four years.

Minister of State Keat Chhon, the Secretary-General of the Cambodia Rehabilitation and Development Board is to lead the team and will sign the MoU with Australia's Minister of International Cooperation and Pacific Affairs Gordon Bilney.

Talks are to be held in Australia prior to the signing to decide how the money should be spent. Canberra's Ambassador in Phnom Penh Tony Kevin will also be flying home to join in.

He and Chhon made the MoU signing announcement in speeches at a business lunch on Oct 12, which was part of the Australian Food and Wine Festival.

Kevin said: "The significance of these talks in Australia is that for the first time the Cambodian government will be taking part fully in the determination of agreed priorities for expenditure under the [aid] program. In this sense it is truly a joint program."

The Ambassador made a veiled reference to the embarrassing leak of a cable written by his predecessor John Holloway, which spoke in very undiplomatic terms about leading Cambodian figures.

He said: "It is very clear to me, even after only 12 weeks here, that Australians are in Cambodia for the long haul, that we are true friends of Cambodia and that our friendship will not be shaken by any temporary political squalls."

In his speech Chhon urged more foreign investment from the assembled businessmen. Referring to the Investment Law he said: "It's not perfect but it sends a clear message about our plans and intentions. It is most liberal and it is up to you to take advantage of it."

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