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In Brief: Oil and the Poor, an Intern First, Debt Swap

Soaring oil prices are threatening the prospects of millions of the region's poor, and Cambodia is one of the most vulnerable, according to a UNDP report issued Friday. As oil prices climb, the impact on the poor may worsen, warns the report, "Overcoming Vulnerability to Rising Oil Prices." Oil prices have tripled in the last four years, and absorbing the growing price is a staggering issue for poor Southeast Asian countries, Hafiz Pasha, UNDP Regional Director for Asia and Pacific, said at the launch of the report in Bangkok. The Oil Price Vulnerability Index developed in the report ranks countries in terms of their economic strength and extent to which growth depends on imported oil. Countries ranked most vulnerable were Cambodia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. Between 2002 and 2005, the UNDP found an average household paid 74 percent more for energy needs. This included 171 percent more for cooking fuels; 120 percent more for transportation; 67 percent more for electricity; and 55 percent more for lighting fuels.

Third-year journalism student Chhor Yi Eung finished a three-month internship Friday at the office of Dr. Horst Posdorf, a German member of the European Parliament, becoming the first Cambodian to complete such an assignment within the European Parliament. Chhor Yi Eung, 23, also worked in the governing body's press department, where she was tasked with studying European Parliament by attending meetings, public hearings and writing articles and reports. The program was made possible by a partnership between the Department of Media and Communications of the Royal University of Phnom Penh and the German aid agency the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation.

Outgoing Polish Ambassador Habil Ryszard Olszewski announced Friday Poland plans to erase Cambodia's foreign debt, on the condition the money be used to preserve Angkor Wat. Poland will also continue to back Cambodia for a place on the non-permanent committee of the UN Security Council, a Polish embassy consul said. The spokesman declined to disclose the total amount of Cambodia's debt to Poland, but government statistics put Poland's contribution for 2006 alone at around $10 million. Poland also donated armored personnel carriers to Cambodia in 1995. The countries first established diplomatic relations more than 50 years ago, and Poland was the first to answer the call of Cambodia's newly installed Vietnamese-backed government in 1979 to assist in preserving the Angkor Wat temple complex.