Khmers Want Healthy U.S.-Cambodia Relations
- This year marks the 72nd anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and the United States of America. Moeun Chhean Nariddh speaks with a government official, an academic and an ordinary Cambodian to get their views on the development of Cambodia-US relations
Phay Siphan, government spokesperson, said Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is currently in the United States as ASEAN Chairman attending the Special ASEAN-US Summit, said that Mr. Hun Sen discussed improving relations between the two countries.
“The discussion focused on how to advance the good relations and cooperation between the two countries, as well as between ASEAN,” he said. “The talks saw the determination of both parties to take the relationship up a few notches.”
Siphan, however, stressed that Cambodia wants to establish good relations with all countries in the world, not just the United States.
“Cambodia wants to show its friends around the world that Cambodia does not consider any country as an enemy,” he said. “Cambodia treats all nations as friends and Cambodia tries to strengthen cooperation with all countries based on the principle of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect. It is Cambodia’s foreign policy that is consistent with ASEAN policy as a whole.
Director General of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s Institute of International Relations Kin Phea said relations between Cambodia and the United States have developed positively.
“The expressions used by the leaders of the two countries show the good will to strengthen and expand the relationship,” he said.
Phea, however, added that it was too early to assess how far relations between the two countries would expand, but so far “it looks positive”.
“The relationship between Cambodia and the United States is overshadowed by the relationship between Cambodia and China. The United States has frequently expressed concern about China’s influence over Cambodia, especially regarding the Chinese military base in Cambodia,” he said.
Phea said it was a geopolitical gamble between the United States and China, with the former seeing China’s influence as a threat to its own influence in Cambodia.
“Thus, the United States is suspicious of the good relations and multidimensional strategies between China and Cambodia,” he said.
Phea said the frequent statements by the United States expressing concern about issues of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Cambodia are considered sensitive issues by Cambodia because it views these issues as Internal Affairs.
“In the eyes of the Royal Government of Cambodia, US involvement in these matters appears to be US interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs,” he said. “This is what I see as an obstacle to the growth of relations between the two countries.”
Therefore, Phea said Cambodia and the United States should try to understand each other and resolve the misunderstanding so that it does not hamper the strengthening of relations between the two countries.
“In general, Cambodia, as a small country, has never set conditions regarding its relationship with superpowers,” he said. “While it is the superpowers that set the terms of its relationship with Cambodia.”
To improve relations between the two nations, Phea said Cambodia and the United States should compromise and try to narrow their differences.
“First, both sides need to resolve their misunderstandings and dispel any suspicions,” he said.
Second, Phea said the United States should increase investment in Cambodia through trade. He pointed out that trade has increased with Cambodia’s exports to the United States amounting to around $10 billion a year.
“But we still need more investment from the United States to show the depth of the relationship,” he said, adding that the United States should also strengthen sectors it could work with. with Cambodia.
Phea said the United States could expand cooperation with Cambodia in many areas, including health, environment, human resource development, and natural resource protection.
“With all of this, the United States can meaningfully work with Cambodia,” he said.
Finally, Phea said the United States should also try to understand Cambodia’s political culture, customs and traditions to improve relations between the two countries.
“The United States should also encourage joint work through many other multistakeholder mechanisms,” he said. “Whether in the framework of ASEAN, Mekong-US, the UN or regional organizations.”
Meanwhile, ordinary Cambodians have also expressed their wish for good relations between Cambodia and the United States.
“I hope our relations will improve after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to the United States,” said Chea Lita, a 32-year-old health worker working for a local NGO. “I want to see an improvement in relations in all areas, especially in the health sector.”
Lita said she also wants more American tourists to come to Cambodia now that the Kingdom has opened up after two years of the negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chhim Rady, a 42-year-old media coordinator at the Cambodian Youth Federation Union, said Cambodia’s relations with the United States were improving.
“The relationship is improving after Cambodia became ASEAN chair,” he said. “But I’m not sure what will happen in the future.”
Rady said relations between Cambodians and Americans had been smooth despite the “top-down relationship” between the two governments.
“In reality, Cambodians and Americans have no problem with each other,” he said.
Thy Chantha, a 27-year-old technician at a garment factory, said he wants the United States to lift all economic and trade sanctions it imposed on Cambodia after the disbandment of the former National Rescue Party. Cambodian in 2017.
“I think any sanctions from the United States or Europe only hurt ordinary people,” he said, adding that he would also like to see more trade and investment from the United States. United.