October 21, 2019

US ambassador meets King as he looks to strengthen ties


Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times, October 21, 2019

The government’s spokespersons unit is optimistic that newly-appointed United States Ambassador Patrick Murphy can help bridge diplomatic gaps after he met with King Norodom Sihamoni on Saturday and issued a positive statement.

Mr Murphy arrived in Phnom Penh last month, but only presented his credentials to King Sihamoni on Saturday at the Royal Palace. Shortly after, Mr Murphy posted a message on his Twitter page, which the government has taken as a positive sign.

Mr Murphy tweeted that he hopes he can strengthen US-Cambodia relations.

“After presenting credentials to King Norodom Sihamoni, I will look forward to meeting with members of the Royal Government of Cambodia and discuss efforts to strengthen ties between our two great countries,” he said on Twitter.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday lauded Mr Murphy’s attitude.

“I hope the new US ambassador will fulfil his job well to strengthen cooperation…with the Kingdom so both our nations can gain benefits,” Mr Siphan said. “I think he understands clearly about Cambodia before he presented his credentials to the King.”

“I have noted his activities, such as how he visited Cambodian villages and communes to understand our culture,” Mr Siphan added.

He said he hopes Mr Murphy would encourage US and Cambodian officials to meet because the US embassy previously issued statements over political issues that came from “some opposite perspective”.

“We welcome dialogue with the new ambassador,” Mr Siphan said.

US Ambassador Patrick Murphy shakes hands with King Norodom Sihamoni. AKP

US-Cambodia relations began to deteriorate in the lead up to the 2018 national election after the CNRP was dissolved in November 2017 and its leader accused of colluding with the US to overthrow the government.

The US then imposed visa restrictions on senior government officials accused of violating human rights and “undermining” democracy in the Kingdom.

In July, the US House of Representatives also passed the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019, a bill aimed at applying travel and financial sanctions to individuals “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom. The bill will need to have the approval of the Senate and President Donald Trump before it becomes a law.

US lawmakers have also made a move to introduce the Cambodian Trade Act 2019 to request the administration of President Trump to review the Kingdom’s Generalised System of Preferences status.

US embassy spokeswoman Emily Zeeberg declined to comment yesterday and referred to Mr Murphy’s tweet and the US embassy’s Facebook page.

The embassy said on Facebook that Mr Murphy presented a letter from Mr Trump to King Sihamoni that echoed Mr Murphy’s tweet.

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, yesterday said relations with the US will only improve once its foreign policy toward the Kingdom has been changed.

“I understand that the US ambassador cannot fix relations because it involves US foreign policy,” Mr Phea said. “If the US considers Cambodia as an important partner, it should not raise issues of small matters that impact bilateral relations.”

“I have noted that the US did not criticise the Thai government for the military coup in Thailand because the Thai government is its ally,” he added.

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