US begins 2020 as celebration of diplomatic ties

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US ambassador Patrick Murphy speaks at the capital’s Futures Factory in Daun Penh district on Wednesday. Hong Menea

The US embassy on Wednesday kicked off a year-long celebration of the 70th anniversary of US-Cambodia diplomatic relations at the capital’s Futures Factory in Daun Penh district.

The event highlighted the US’ contribution to the Kingdom’s development, along with other partnerships between the two countries.

An embassy press release said a major activity will be carried out in each month of this year. They will cover various themes including agriculture, youth education and technology, women and gender equality, the environment, public health and people-to-people relations.

Remaining sectors such as trade and investment, humanitarian assistance, law enforcement, regional cooperation, and democracy and human rights will also be tackled from August to December.

The two nations first established diplomatic relations in 1950 when US diplomat Donald Heath, who was stationed in Vietnam, presented his credentials to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, said US ambassador Patrick Murphy.

Since then, he said the embassy had worked to help the Cambodian government improve agricultural technology.

“We will rely on our many partners here today to pull off [this] year-long commemoration. These partners include NGOs, alumni of exchange programmes, universities, professionals, American businesses and, of course, government officials.

“US contributions in the Kingdom are largely thanks to Cambodia’s government and people, the Cambodian-American community, and the ambassadors and diplomats that preceded us,” said Murphy.

He noted that throughout the year, the embassy would conduct public events to showcase its partnership with the Kingdom, in the form of concerts, conferences and new programmes.

The embassy would also dedicate July to commemorating US Independence Day and the anniversary of Heath presenting his credentials to the King Father.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Wednesday that the prime minister wished to close a dark chapter in Cambodia-US ties and instead focus on improving cooperation between the two nations.

“We see the US as our partner with whom we have good cooperation and ties. We are working on improving these and avoiding any acts that could strain our relationship,” said Siphan.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn said the celebration aimed to deepen the countries’ understanding and mutual respect.

He praised trade relationship between the nations, saying that Cambodia had exported garment and footwear products to the US last year to the tune of $5 billion.

He also noted the US’ support for the Kingdom’s cultural preservation, mine clearance action and education.

In return, the Kingdom would support the US with the retrieval of missing American soldiers deployed during the Vietnam War.

“Cambodia reaffirms its commitment to work closely with the US in the spirit of mutual understanding and respect. We stand to revitalise our relationship and seek more potential areas of cooperation for the shared benefit of our people.

“The most recent exchange of letters between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Hun Sen had set the tone for this renewed collaboration and friendship between our two countries,” Sokhonn said.