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International relations

Cambodia to return 1,600 tons of waste to US and Canada

Investigators are looking into 83 containers of trash

A Cambodia's committee to investigate the sources of the trash discovered packing in more than 80 containers at country beach city, Sihanoukville Port.   © AP

PHNOM PENH (Kyodo) -- The Cambodian government said Wednesday that it has ascertained the origin of 1,600 tons of illegally imported plastic waste as being the United States and Canada.

Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told Kyodo News that investigators are probing what company imported the 83 containers of waste, discovered Tuesday at Sihanoukville port, and for what purpose.

He said it remains to be seen whether the trash can be sent back to the countries of origin.

This is the second time for such a large amount to be found in Cambodia, following the first case in 1998 in which some 3,000 tons of toxic waste were found dumped on the outskirts of Sihanoukville.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has insisted that Cambodia will not become a dumpsite for waste imported from foreign countries.

The incident follows similar ones elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

On Wednesday, Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya told a parliamentary hearing that since last month, 57 containers of plastic garbage have been sent back to Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong and the United States, and 131 more were being checked for possible repatriation.

In a well-publicized case in May, the Philippines sent 69 containers of household waste and electronic garbage -- which had been marked as recyclable plastics -- back to Canada, ending a protracted diplomatic spat.

Also in May, Malaysia said it was sending back 3,000 tons of plastic waste brought into the country illegally in 60 containers from such countries as Japan, Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States.

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