Kingdom, US vow stronger ties

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Council of Ministers permanent secretary of state Hing Thoraksy (left), US ambassador Patrick Murphy and RAC president Sok Touch. Heng Chivoan

At an academic forum on Saturday to celebrate 70 years of Cambodia-US diplomatic ties, Cambodian researchers and officials expressed hope of encouraging US investments and for that country to deepen and improve its bilateral relations.

Held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, it reviewed the past 70 years of ties with the US and looked towards prospects.

Speakers included US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy, Council of Ministers permanent secretary of state Hing Thoraksy, and Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch, among others.

Thorasky said he believed the Donald Trump administration, through Murphy’s diplomatic actions, will improve relations between the two countries.

He expressed hope that more US investors and tourists will invest in and visit Cambodia.

Murphy, he said, had improved relations by meeting with many ministries and institutions and he said the US ambassador maintained a clear, reasonable and non-extremist stance.

Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute director Kin Phea said US and Cambodian relations hit snags at times because of both countries’ relationships with China.

Phea said the core values of US foreign diplomacy are democracy, human rights and the rule of law. While these values are noble, Western and Asian views on democracy, he said, may differ.

He urged foreign diplomats to learn more about Cambodia’s society to better understand the Cambodian mindset.

“The most important thing is to consistently respect the principle of the UN Charter – non-interference in each other’s affairs, respect for each other’s interests, sovereignty and territorial integrities. The second is to restore lost confidence,” Phea said.

The director of the Department of America, Latin America and Oceania Studies at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Toek Meng, said he observed that countries that had good relations with the US tend to receive billions of dollars in investment from it.

Jonathan July, the economic and political adviser to the US Embassy, said the extent of relations between two countries could not depend on investment volume because the economic volume of each country makes a difference.

Touch said Cambodia trended towards China in its interest. “Why does Cambodia listen to China? Because China provides aid. Does the US construct hundred-storey buildings? It is China which builds them,” Touch said.

He said Cambodia would trend more towards the US if it improved investments in the Kingdom and attracted workers.

“If the US helps Cambodia with the agriculture sector, where 70 per cent of Cambodians work, the US will have an influence on the government,” he said.

Murphy said democracy is a constant work-in-progress and expressed hope that Cambodians will have a voice in shaping the Kingdom’s future.

“Now, our greatest source of pride in the relationship between the US and Cambodia are our people to people ties,” he said.

He said he looked forward to increasing understanding between the two countries, boosting trade and inviting more Cambodians to study in the US.

Murphy said he will support efforts to protect Cambodia’s multi-party democracy and sovereignty while working with the Kingdom to maintain an open and free Indo-Pacific region. He said he’d also support Cambodia as it takes its turn as ASEAN chair in 2022.