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High-Level Vietnamese Delegation Arrives

A senior Vietnamese official arrived in Cambodia Thursday to sign a number of agreements on energy, industry and mineral resources, officials said.

The state visit “is very important for strengthening the cooperation, relationship and friendship between the two nations,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said. “During his visit, the two nations will sign two agreements. Firstly an agreement on energy, industry and mineral resource; and secondly, an agreement on water transportation.”

Nong Duc Manh, general-secretary of Vietnam’s Communist Party, will meet with King Norodom Sihanomi, and senior leaders of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, including Chea Sim, Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

He will also meet with venerable monks Tep vong and Bour Kry, who are supreme patriarchs of two Buddhist sects.

Bilateral trade between the two countries was $1.05 billion for the first 10 months of 2009, but officials are hoping to double that by next year. Trade peaked at $1.7 billion in 2008.

The high-level visit has upset members of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom ethnic group, who accuse Vietnamese authorities of human rights abuses and restricted freedoms for the community in the Mekong Delta.

In a letter to the king, Thach Setha, executive director of the Khmer Krom Community, an advocacy group, said authorities in Vietnam had confiscated people’s land and forbid their children to learn Khmer.

Authorities “pressure and threaten Khmer Kampuchea Krom people, Buddhist monks farming and raising animals, and forbid monks and people to assemble and talk about social and political issues,” he wrote.