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Cambodia Scraps a long-standing U.S. military development aid program, Accepts $150M From China

Earlier this year Cambodia canceled a joint military exercise with the United States, and Prime Minister Hun Sen has lobbied for the U.S. to forgive Cambodia’s $500 million in debts dating back to the 1970s

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Phnom Penh, April 8, 2017: In another sign of a diplomatic shift toward Beijing, Cambodia has scrapped a long-standing U.S. military development aid program.

“The Royal Government of Cambodia notified the Embassy last week of its decision to postpone indefinitely the mission of the U.S. Navy Mobile Construction Battalion – better known as the Seabees – which has been carrying out community service projects in underserved areas of Cambodia since 2008. The Cambodian government did not offer a reason for this decision,” Jay Raman, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, emailed VOA on Wednesday.

The decision ends a program that has run for nine years.

Earlier this year Cambodia canceled a joint military exercise with the United States, and Prime Minister Hun Sen has lobbied for the U.S. to forgive Cambodia’s $500 million in debts dating back to the 1970s.

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The Seabees ran a humanitarian program in Cambodia that included building schools, maternity wards and rural development projects. The projected budget through 2019 was $815,000 according a U.S. embassy spokesman.

However, Royal Cambodian Navy Commander Tea Vinh was quoted by local media as saying the Seabees were going on “vacation” and would complete their assigned projects.

The Seabees’ change of status is a further sign of Cambodia’s closeness with China. Cambodia has gone further than other Southeast Asian nations in courting China, and the shift away from Washington has continued under President Donald Trump despite Hun Sen’s professed admiration for him.

On Tuesday, Hun Sen thanked Beijing for a $150 million grant for the construction of a new sports stadium in the capital.

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“Thanks Mr. President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang and the Chinese people that provided support and offered this major grant to Cambodia … which reflects close friendship and cooperation between Cambodia and China,” the Cambodian leader wrote on Facebook.

In October, President Xi made an official visit and left behind $237 million in new aid. Some political analysts have said the increasing aid from China reflects a shift in Cambodia’s international politics toward an Asian neighbor that has no qualms about human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch has reported that during 2016, Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) “significantly escalated persecution on political grounds.”

Chheang Vannarith, chairman of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies, told VOA in an email Wednesday that Cambodia was pursuing a more pragmatic foreign policy.

“Cambodia is against any hegemonic power or patron-type country. Cambodia is pro-Cambodia and this has been the core principle of Cambodia’s foreign policy,” he wrote. “However, over-dependency on any single country may challenge Cambodia’s permanent neutrality.”

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Sophal Ear, an associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles, however, said Cambodia’s national interest should be the driver of its foreign policy.

“Increasing dependence on China has long-term negative implications, like any over-dependence on anyone. Cambodia should be independent.”
-VOA

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)