Trump: US does not want regime change in Kingdom

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen meets with US Ambassador Patrick Murphy at the Peace Palace last Thursday. Hun Sen’s Facebook page

US president Donald Trump has expressed the US’ commitment to respecting Cambodia’s sovereignty and invited Prime Minister Hun Sen to attend the US-Asean summit in the US next year.

Trump made the pledge and invitation in two separate letters addressed to Hun Sen early this month, the contents of which were revealed during a meeting between the prime minister and US Ambassador Patrick Murphy in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

In his Facebook post, Hun Sen quoted Trump as saying that the US would continue its support for the Kingdom’s development in various fields, while refraining from interfering in its internal affairs.

“The US is committed to providing support for Cambodia. In particular, the US respects Cambodia’s sovereignty and does not support regime change.

“The US would assist Cambodia in ensuring strong and transparent financial management and combating money laundering which affects the nation.

“The US would also provide Cambodia with technical support to build trust in friendship and cooperation,” Hun Sen’s Facebook post said.

In a letter seen by The Post, Trump acknowledged strains in relations between the two countries and pledged to mend ties based on mutual respect.

“In recent years, the United States’ relationship with the Kingdom of Cambodia has encountered difficulties, but our estrangement does not serve the interests of the American and Cambodian peoples.

“For that reason, I wish to take this opportunity to underscore to you that the United States respects the sovereign will of the Cambodian people and we don’t seek regime change. My administration seeks a relationship with your government based on mutual respect,” one of his letters said.

However, Trump also urged the government to put more efforts in strengthening democracy.

“It is important for the future of our bilateral relationship that you put Cambodia back on the path of democratic government.

“As a first step, I hope you will re-evaluate certain decisions taken by your government that the United States firmly believes puts at great risk the kingdom of Cambodia’s long-term sovereignty, stability, and economic development,” he said.

US ambassador Murphy said beside assuring ongoing support for Cambodia, his meeting with Hun Sen on Thursday also touched on the US-Asean Summit in the US next year.

“[We] continue our discussion on US support for the Cambodian people and on democracy and [human] rights steps that will strengthen the bilateral relationship,” he tweeted on Thursday.

In his Facebook post, Hun Sen confirmed he would attend the meeting, despite the US president skipping an Asean summit in the Thai capital Bangkok. He said he would direct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to work out details with their US counterparts.

Hun Sen said the US’ ongoing support reflected strong ties and cooperation between the two countries. He reaffirmed Cambodia’s commitment to further strengthening mutual relations.

The Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch said Trump’s letters to Hun Sen not only reflected warm mutual relationships but also the US’ acceptance of the Kingdom’s 2018 national elections.

“Donald Trump made it clear that [the US] did not have any reason to support regime change [in Cambodia] and [the US] respected Cambodia’s sovereignty. This is the most important point that makes Cambodia and the US shake hands.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen’s strong foreign policy may attract Donald Trump’s interest. If Hun Sen attends the US-Asean summit, it would encourage other Asean member states to participate too,” Touch said.

Instead of dispatching top officials to the Asean summit in Bangkok, Trump had sent Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.