Australian Envoy Awarded Royal Order of Sahametrei

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn presents the medal to Pablo Kang. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

PHNOM PENH – Outgoing Australian Ambassador Pablo Kang has been awarded the Royal Order of Sahametrei, the nation's highest honor given to foreigners, in recognition of his efforts to advance Cambodia-Australia ties.

Before ending his mission this month, Kang met Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn to reflect on the achievements during his tenure as well as the robust 70-year relations between the countries.

Kang has held the position since January 2020. His mission saw a strong uptick in high-level conversations and bilateral visits.

Former Australian foreign minister Marise Payne visited Cambodia in 2021 to advance diplomatic cooperation and emphasize the support of her government for the Kingdom's ASEAN Chairmanship in 2022.

Former UNTAC Force Commander John Sanderson last year visited Cambodia to mark 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, while Hun Manet, Commander of the Cambodian Army, visited Australia.

Australia sent more than 500 personnel, a few senior officials, and six helicopters to help set up the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

Also, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and foreign minister Penny Wong attended the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit and related summits in November in Phnom Penh.

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn said he appreciated Australia for its cooperation and help in areas such as trade and investment, health, military and security, education, and the Mekong-Australian partnership.

Particularly, Australia provided nearly three million doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines and 133 vaccine freezers, and development assistance for agriculture, infrastructure, demining and human resource development.

Australia has given Cambodia more than $35.7 million to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and increase vaccinations.

Ambassador Kang said he was honored to receive the Order of Sahametrei medal, as authorized by King Sihamoni, during his farewell visit to Sokhonn.

“I accepted this medal on behalf of all the staff of the Australian Embassy for their work over the past three years of COVID,” he tweeted.

In the first five days of 2023, Kang met Hun Manet, Senior Minister and first vice president of the  Cambodian Mine Action & Victim Assistance Authority  Ly Thuch, and Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron.

Kang said education in Cambodia “has seen a significant increase in the number and quality rankings of local tertiary institutions, helping to increase linkages between Australia and Cambodia’s universities and students.”

As of 2022, the Australian government had given nearly 1000 scholarships to Cambodian students who wished to pursue master's and doctoral degrees in Australia through the Australian Awards Scholarships program since 1994.

The Colombo Plan, a move by the Australian government to strengthen ties with the Indo-Pacific region, is credited with the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Australia in 1952.

The 1970s and 1980s saw a break in relations, which were restored in 1991 after the country's decades of war and conflict. Ties have grown significantly since then.

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