France’s national day is rooted in its revolutionary history. It commemorates both the storming of the Bastille by the people of Paris on 14th July 1789 and the “Fête de la Fédération” a year later, on 14th July 1790, a moment of strong national unity. It has become associated with the core values of the French Republic: liberté (liberty), égalité (equality), fraternité (fraternity) that resonate for every democrat around the world. This is why our national day cannot be celebrated on any day other than 14th July.
France has stood by Cambodia at the most difficult times of its history. We will commemorate later this year the 50th anniversary of the historic visit by general de Gaulle (1966) and the 25th anniversary of the Paris peace agreements (23rd October 1991).
Today, in a different context and as a long-time friend, France wishes that the Kingdom will continue to consolidate its institutions and its economy while improving the Cambodian people’s livelihood and allowing its vibrant civil society to fully play its part.
We value our regular political dialogue at the highest level and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s official visit to Paris in October 2015 provided an opportunity to exchange views on the international and regional situation, in particular in relation to the UN peacekeeping operations where our soldiers work together.
Through private investment and the growing commitments from the French Development Agency, we are keen to assist the Kingdom in bringing its physical infrastructure to the best international standards: airports, water treatment facilities, electricity transmission lines, rural roads, hotels and restaurants. The decision by BRED, a major French bank, to open a branch in Cambodia before the end of this year, is a significant development that can only boost our steadily growing economic and trade relations. I am also pleased to note that the French business community has recently organised its first corporate social responsibility contest to reward the best practices of its members.
For the past 25 years, France has also played its role to strengthen Cambodia’s human capital, through educational programs in schools and universities. France remains one of the top destinations for Cambodian students wishing to obtain a master degree or a PhD, especially in the fields of medicine, law, economics, social sciences and, increasingly, in engineering. With close to 1000 pupils, the Lycée Descartes enjoys a growing popularity among Cambodian families. The French Institute has also remained a key partner for Cambodian universities and cultural institutions.
I am also impressed by the commitment of numerous French NGOs that provide social and educational services to the Cambodian people and whose contribution is fully recognised by the highest Cambodian authorities. Every year, hundreds of French volunteers come to Cambodia, sometimes to the most remote places, to offer a hand and contribute to the Kingdom’s socioeconomic development. This is a remarkable illustration of our national motto’s fraternity.
We will be happy to celebrate these joint achievements with our Cambodian friends on 14th July and look forward to further progress in the year to come.