Czechs To Forgive $3 Million Cambodian Debt

A Czech Republic delegation ended a short visit to Cambodia Tuesday announcing that the country’s government will forgive a more than $3 million debt owed by the Cambodian government.

“The debt has a very old history,” said Tomas Zidek, Czech deputy minister of finance. “The government doesn’t need to pay back this money.”

The delegation arrived Sunday and left Tuesday morning, officials said. The countries also signed agreements on protecting Czech investors in Cambodia and discussed increasing trade, he said.

The increased security for in­vestors will increase investment in Cambodia, Zidek said, adding the Czech Republic hopes to open Cam­bodia up to more Czech goods.

Cambodia exports more goods to the Czech Republic than it imports, he said, adding that the imports are mainly food products and total about $5 million annually.

Jan Kohout, Czech deputy minister of foreign affairs, said Cambodia had borrowed the more than $3 million in 1983, 1984 and 1986 to build textile and food-processing plants.

CPP National Assembly First Vice President Nguon Nhel welcomed the debt forgiveness.

“This is up to the lenders’ sympathy,” he said, adding he doesn’t know the total amount Cambodia owes to foreign countries.

“If any country forgives the debt, we thank them,” he said.

Zidek said that though relations between the countries are growing, the Czech Republic, which has an embassy in Bangkok, is a long way from having an embassy in Phnom Penh.

“The bilateral trade and bilateral exchange and investment should be more active. At this moment, related activities are not enough to open an embassy here,” he said.

The delegation also discussed having direct flights from the Czech capital of Prague to Phnom Penh or a Czech carrier flying from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, Zidek added.

“To open a special flight from Prague or Bangkok by a Czech airline it costs a lot of money,” he said.

One of the highlights of the trip, Zidek said, was meeting King Norodom Sihamoni who has lived in Prague.

“He speaks Czech very much like a native. It was unbelievable,” he said.

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