UK Coronation Highlights Cambodian History Links

British Ambassador Dominic Williams during an exclusive interview with Cambodianess. Photo: Chhorn Sophat

PHNOM PENH – The United Kingdom is celebrating the coronation of King Charles this month as Cambodia and Britain reach 70 years of diplomatic relations.

These were established in 1953, the year of Cambodia’s reclaimed independence from France.

Under the King’s reign, the UK is looking forward to strengthening its relationship with the world as well as Cambodia, British Ambassador Dominic Williams said in an exclusive interview with Cambodianess.

Particularly, the UK was looking forward to helping Cambodia achieve the next stage of development.

“We have 70 years of a great cooperation but the best is yet to come,” he said.

Williams said the UK had always been outward-looking. This remained the case as the country has a lot to offer.

He pointed out that the UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It is the largest European contributor to NATO, the third largest humanitarian donor in the G7, and the first European country to join ASEAN as a dialogue partner.

“What we want to do across the world, including in Cambodia, is use those partnerships and those relationships to stand up for the things that matter to us,” he said.

Monarch represents ancient traditions

Williams said the coronation is a huge moment for the British people.

“I think the Cambodian people actually understand that because both of our countries have a monarch who has played a very important role throughout the whole of the 20th century,” he said.

He pointed out that Cambodia has had a transition from one monarch to another. In the UK, this is the first time people have seen that transition happen for 70 years when Queen Elizabeth the Second was crowned in 1953.

"It's an exciting moment to celebrate for our country, but also a moment of reflection of what's changed and how things have moved on within the country,” he said.

The ambassador said monarchies represent the tradition of the country, in which they are the connection to the past and help people understand the tradition so that they can move forward as a nation.

“I think they represent that stability and continuity that are really helpful for countries to understand their place in the world and what our values are.”

Monarchs have a special role to play in international relations, he said. They have respect in common because of their traditional role and they can connect people.

“I was lucky enough to meet His Majesty King Norodom Sihanomi last year, and that's the day my wife won't ever forget,” he recalled. “We found His Majesty very humble, very considerate and interested in the UK.”

At around the similar time, a group of Cambodian people and the Chevening scholar were meeting King Charles at Buckingham Palace.

“Monarchs can help form special relationships between the people of both countries because they are unique figures that represent so much,” he said.

Walk with Cambodia for development

Williams revealed his ambition to help Cambodia achieve the next step of development, aiming to accelerate economic cooperation as last year, Cambodia and the UK reached a billion dollars worth of trade.

“The UK-Cambodia relationship is really a trading relationship which has strengthened very much in recent years,” he said.

He said Cambodia was very kind in supporting the UK to join ASEAN as a dialogue partner and work on a range of international issues, such as climate change. Both countries had a very strong and robust development relationship, such as health, COVID-19 and education.

The UK also launched the Developing Countries Trading Scheme, in which Cambodia can export almost 90 percent of its products to the UK without paying taxes, said Williams, pointing out that the UK has also launched a joint investment trade forum with the Ministry of Commerce and a political dialogue with the government.

“But my overall ambition is to make sure that the UK is really standing behind the next stage of Cambodia's development so that we're helping Cambodia make the journey into the future that's always more prosperous.”

He said the role of the UK is to support education and ensure that Cambodia obtains the skills to compete and succeed in a competitive global marketplace.

“I hope that through using my Khmer language skill and through relationships that I form with Cambodian people will enable me to understand and represent the aspiration of the Cambodian people so that I can help support them achieve what they want to achieve in the future,” he said.

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