Australia Courted for Further Railway Funding

The government has asked Aus­tralia to provide more funding to help complete the rehabilitation of the dilapidated railway line between Phnom Penh and the Thai border, a spokesman said on Monday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong met with Lieutenant Gen­­­eral John Sanderson, former chief of the Australian Army, at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s office building in Phnom Penh.

After the meeting, Foreign Af­fairs Min­istry spokesman Koy Kuong said that—following a re­quest to the Asian Devel­opment Bank (ADB) last month for help with the railway—Mr. Namhong requested more funds for the cash-strapped pro­ject.

“If Australia and the ADB cooperate to have the repairs and re­con­struction of the railway completed, it would be great because the price of trans­portation would be cheap and traffic jams would be reduced,” Mr. Namhong said, according to Mr. Kuong.

While work on the Southern Line of the railway, from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville’s seaport, is nearly completed, the $141.6 million given to the project so far—mostly from the ADB—is not enough to complete repairs on the Northern Line.

An estimated $75 million to $125 million more is needed to fix the colonial-era tracks and many bridges damaged by years of war on the part of the line connecting Phnom Penh and Banteay Mean­chey province.

Mr. Kuong also said that Mr. Namhong thanked Australia for providing scholarships to Cam­bodian students and civil servants, as well as for the $21 million the country has already provided to the railway rehabilitation project through its international development agen­cy, AusAID.

Mr. Kuong did not elaborate on Lt. Gen. Sanderson’s response, but re­ported him as saying that Aus­tralia would continue to support the Cambodian government.

Lt. Gen Sanderson was chief of Aus­tralian forces during the time of the U.N. Transitional Authority in Cam­bodia, and was in Phnom Penh on Monday as the Australian representative at the funeral of King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

“Australia helped all the parties of Cambodia to sit down and talk to­gether to find the peaceful resolution in Cambodia,” Mr. Nam­hong was reported as saying.

Mr. Kuong also said that Lt. Gen. Sanderson offered his condolences to Cambodia for the loss of King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

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