A three-person team will travel to Taiwan to negotiate with petrochemical giant Formosa Plastics over compensation and the removal of toxic waste from Sihanoukville, a senior official said.
Environment Minister Mok Mareth said Tuesday the team probably would depart this week. He said Cambodia has been waiting more than a month for Formosa Plastics to set up negotiations. The company shipped 3,000 tons of mercury-tainted waste to Cambodia in November.
“If the waste is brought back to [Taiwan] and the compensation is paid, then the issue is over,” Mok Mareth said.
It still had not been decided as of Tuesday which three members of the government’s negotiating team would make the trip, Mok Mareth said. The government negotiating team is led by Om Yentieng, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, he said. Mok Mareth said that, technically, the negotiators will not be representing the government, because Cambodia does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Mok Mareth declined to say how much compensation would be demanded, indicating it would be subject to negotiation. He also did not say whether a deadline would be given to Formosa to remove the waste, now stored in metal containers at a dump site 14 km outside town.
Global environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Basel Action Network recently recommended the government give a 90-day deadline to Formosa from the time the waste was dumped. Without a deadline, Formosa is likely to stall, they said. They also stressed it would be very difficult for Formosa to get the permission necessary to send the waste to the US or Europe, as Formosa has said it would try to do.
Meanwhile, Legal Aid of Cambodia, which is representing possible victims in the toxic waste scandal, has been rejected in its request to be part of the settlement discussions, said Michele Brandt, an LAC legal consultant.
She said Tuesday that an NGO committee has been formed to monitor the toxic waste situation. One of the group’s goals now, she said, is to determine whether Sihanoukville area residents who scavenged the site still have toxic materials in their possession.
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