To the Kingdom of Cambodia
It is my great pleasure to introduce this special supplement of The Phnom Penh Post on the United Kingdom. As British Ambassador here since January of this year, I witness every week the extent to which our relations are thriving and growing in every field, especially governmentally, politically, socially, economically, developmentally and commercially. 2014 is the 62nd year of UK-Cambodian diplomatic relations, but it is particularly in the last few years that we have seen a huge increase in numbers of British visitors here, up 12 per cent to nearly 124,000 in 2013, and the upward trend is continuing this year. As you will read in this supplement, quality British companies and brands present in Cambodia are increasing in number, and we have a vibrant British community of professionals in business and civil society, as well as students and volunteers. We also have a great network of talented Cambodians who have studied in the UK and who have now returned to Cambodia, sharing their skills and experience. Providing a high quality of education is a shared goal of the UK and Cambodia. Four British Universities are ranked within the top 10 globally. This year we have tripled our funding for UK government-sponsored “Chevening” scholarships. In February, working with the British Council, we will continue to promote UK study opportunities through the annual Education Fair.
Our relations at governmental level are also strong, with visits from the UK Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hugo Swire in January, our Prime Minister’s Trade Representative Lord Puttnam (twice – in March and October) and several senior officials.
We are working in partnership with key areas of the Royal Government of Cambodia to help pursue the complex reforms needed to support the country’s development.
As we always do throughout the world, the UK speaks in support of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We were encouraged to see the political settlement in July, which led to a fully constituted Parliament and the immediate and positive effect this had on confidence throughout the economy in general. However, we also understand that much of the hard work on reform is still ahead and that it is a long-term process. The UK has offered support to both government and civil society in areas as diverse as strengthening land security for marginalised people in Cambodia, encouraging renewable energy and power generation in remote areas and the development of action strategies related to sexual and gender-based violence. Our most significant bilateral program in recent years has been, and remains, our support for demining through the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and the Halo Trust. This work is vital to protect affected rural communities from this ever-present threat and to free up land for them to develop and farm. We also continue to be one of the major contributors to the budget of the ECCC, the Khmer Rouge tribunal, to bring to account those most responsible for the crimes against humanity of that era.
The UK recognises the potential for economic development in Cambodia and the positive role that ethical investors can play. That is why we set up a UK Trade & investment Office in the Embassy in 2013 and are working increasingly closely with the British Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia. The objective of these steps is to encourage more British companies to explore opportunities in Cambodia, to provide a more joined-up network for existing British businesses here and work together on any regulatory or other issues which need to be discussed with the Cambodian government. It is not just about securing contracts or sales for companies, but working to develop the economic environment for everybody’s benefit. For example, we have supported capacity building in insolvency law and accounting standards, sent experts to advise the government on establishing a building standards code nationally and hosted a seminar for Cambodian government and businesses to share branding expertise to promote high-quality Cambodian agricultural products.
As we move towards 2015, and the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, we will continue to intensify our engagement with Cambodia and the Cambodian people.
To find out more about what we get up to, please follow us on our social media: UK in Cambodia on Facebook, @UkinCambodia on Twitter or read my own tweets @wjlonghurst. I look forward to seeing you there!