Prak Sokhonn allays US fears

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Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn shakes hands with US State Department deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman on May 11, one day ahead of the ASEAN-US summit in Washington. PRAK SOKHONN VIA FACEBOOK

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn discussed Ream naval base, as well as human rights and democracy in Cambodia, with US State Department deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman to allay US concerns.

Sokhonn and Sherman had bilateral talks on May 11, one day ahead of the ASEAN-US summit in Washington.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a press statement that Sokhonn acknowledged that in the over 70 years of relations, despite some differences, there have always been genuinely strong and consistent endeavours to deepen friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

Sherman expressed her appreciation for Cambodia’s principled actions in supporting the United Nations General Assembly’s resolutions on Ukraine, its high vaccination rates and its efforts to resolve the Myanmar crisis.

She also expressed her concerns about certain issues in Cambodia, such as the US suspicions surrounding Ream Naval Base, human rights and democracy.

Sokhonn told her that Cambodia has taken a consistent approach to protect peace, and has always shown respect for international law and the UN Charter in the conduct of its foreign policy, particularly with regards to Myanmar and the conflict in Ukraine.

“On the development of Ream Naval Base, he reassured Cambodia’s adherence to her own Constitutional principles in forbidding the presence of foreign military assets. The gesture made by Cambodia in allowing many visits to the base is unprecedented from any country’s military perspective,” the MFAIC said.

On the state of democracy, Sokhonn said that despite being young, Cambodia has conducted regular elections since 1993, and those elections had been observed as free, fair, transparent, peaceful and orderly by local and international observers. Multi-party liberal democracy has always been reflected in those elections, as could be seen in the upcoming commune elections, which offered a platform for 17 parties to compete.

Currently, the 2,000 printed and digital media outlets, more than 6000 NGOs, and more than 6000 unions – with some factories having up to 5 unions in a single factory – are factual illustrations of Cambodia’s space for freedoms and democratic culture, he added.

“He also argued that rights and freedom should not prejudice obligations to respect the law,” the statement said.