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U.S. Ambassador Patrick Murphy stresses the two countries’ lasting relations through their people
PHNOM PENH--The US remains committed to a prosperous, healthy and sovereign Cambodia as bilateral relations between the two countries turn 70 this month, US Ambassador Patrick Murphy said on July 1.
Speaking at an event commemorating the 244th anniversary of US Independence from Great Britain, which was held at Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh, Murphy first recalled the sacrifice and determination of the American people to claim their freedom as well as build a democratic government system—all of which took many decades to achieve.
And despite the achievements made thus far, like other nations, the US has flaws, which require improvement, he said. “We are not perfect. We are a work in progress. We make mistakes and missteps.
“Cambodia, too, as a friend, is a work in progress,” Murphy said. “We hope, for Cambodia, to see continued success in other fields including governance and rule of law so that all voices can be heard…Prosperous, independent and democratic Cambodia is good for Cambodians, for the region and for the world, and this is terrific for our enduring friendship.”
Cambodia and the US established diplomatic relations in July 1950, making the US one of the very few countries to recognize the sovereignty of Cambodia three years before the country formally proclaimed its independence from France.
“Our relationship went through many challenges, but just like Cambodian people, our ties are resilient,” Murphy said. He pointed out the momentous people-to-people linkage, which is a bedrock of the US and Cambodia relationship and continues to flourish—with an increasing number of exchange students, business people, tourists and participants in exchange programs.
Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak, who was representing the Cambodian government at the event, mentioned the expansion of the bilateral relations, cooperation and friendship between the two countries, which are based on mutual interest and the respect of each other’s sovereignty, he said.
Speaking of people-to-people connectivity, Sorasak recalled the recent humanitarian gesture of the Cambodian government that allowed the Westerdam Cruise ship with 2,257 passengers on board to dock in the port of Sihanoukville last February, which, he said, strengthened ties between the two nations.
On the diplomatic front, Sorasak said, “[b]oth countries on November 2019 agreed on a new ‘US-Cambodia educational exchange program,’ which aims to enhance the exchange visits of members of the US Congress and congressional staff, and occasionally… other US government officials to [introduce] them to Cambodia’s culture and society.”
On the economic front, Sorasak noted that the bilateral trade relations between the two countries have considerably expanded over the past years, reaching $5.8 billion in 2019 from $4 billion in 2018.
The minister also commended the significant contribution made by the US government to buttress Cambodia’s ongoing progress in many fields ranging from civil society to education to social development.
“The US has supported civil society organizations working on some critical issues like human rights, transparency and accountability, which all…complement the Cambodian government’s efforts to promote the country’s inclusive and sustainable development,” Sorasak said.
To assist Cambodia to deal with the economic and health fallout driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, the US administration has pledged $11 million in assistance to the country, he said, adding that Cambodians appreciated this ongoing assistance.
Sorasak ended his remarks by praising Murphy for his efforts to cement the ties between the two nations, expressing hope for continued friendship and cooperation.
Welcoming Cambodia’s position regarding Sihanoukville
Prime Minister Hun Sen on June 1 said that the country keeps the door open to any country—and especially major powers—wishing to conduct military drills, and would welcome foreign funding to build a dock or help relocate Cambodia’s military training center.
At the same time, Hun Sen reiterated that the country would not allow a foreign military base on its own soil—the issue has been widely covered by the media since July 2019, as rumors circulated that the country had signed a “secret” agreement that would allow the Chinese military to use part of Ream Naval Base. But the Cambodian government has been denying this, deeming it a fabrication.
Speaking to reporters after the event on July 1, Murphy said he welcomed the Cambodian prime minister’s position, which reflects the country’s effort to maintain diplomatic relations with numerous countries.
“Cambodia seeks to have good relations with all of its neighboring countries and all countries: This is a good thing,” Murphy said.
Most importantly, the US administration wants to support Southeast Asia in its efforts to retain its independence and sovereignty, he said, “which we very much respect.”
“The [US] also seeks to solidify the strong ties between our people,” Murphy said of Cambodia. “These ties are getting stronger all the time, and they are the bedrock of the relationship.”