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John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, gives a warm wave on his arrival to Cambodia earlier this year. Hong Menea

USA and the Kingdom’s continued solid relations

As the United States of America celebrates its independence day today, Post Plus highlights some of the U.S.’ most notable contributions to the Kingdom of Cambodia within the past year.

Through enhancing business opportunities, financial and humanitarian aid, and knowledge and empowerment, the U.S.’ involvement through its government, businesses and organisations continue to aid Cambodia’s overall growth.

To start with, September 14 witnessed William Heidt being sworn in as the United States’ Ambassador to Cambodia. Heidt had served as chief of staff to the under-secretary for economic growth, energy, and the environment at the Department of State prior to taking up his current role, and is duly recognised for his efforts in shaping U.S. global relations.

September 18 welcomed the opening of WECREATE Cambodia, a community centre that gives women a platform to start or expand businesses. Short for Women’s Entrepreneurial Centers of Resources, Education, Access, and Training for Economic Empowerment, the U.S. initiative aims to improve women’s connectivity in impoverished countries. The centre in Cambodia is tailored to fit the country’s specific economic issues that hinder female entrepreneurial endeavours, and is designed to progress gender equality and drive Cambodian women into better business dynamics through a varied portfolio of tools and workshops.

On the political front, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cambodia from January 25 to 26 in a bid to strengthen both nations’ “growing bilateral economic relationship”. Kerry met with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong to discuss economic cooperation, and with civil society members to emphasise the importance of America’s support of human and civil rights, and political respect in the Kingdom.

“[The fundamental responsibility] of a democratic government is to ensure that all elected representatives are free [to carry out] their responsibilities without fear of attack or arrest, so as Cambodians prepare for elections next year and in 2018 it is very important to allow for vigorous but peaceful debate,” Kerry said. He concluded his visit with praising Cambodia’s “extraordinary” progress since his first senatorial visit in the 1990s.

February saw Cambodia’s premier stepping onto U.S. land, attending the ASEAN summit in California’s Sunnylands resort on February 16 and 17 held to celebrate the superpower’s efforts to tighten relations with the Southeast Asian region, especially in the wake of the ongoing South China Sea dispute and Cambodia’s strong ties with China.

The US Air Force quartet was flown in for a specially recreated performance for King Sihamoni and Queen Mother on May 8, 60 years to the day of the quartet’s first debut at the Royal Palace. Playing at the Raffles Hotel Le Royal, two Cambodian classical musicians joined in and incorporated some songs composed by the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk. Queen Mother was reportedly moved by a particular surprise composition titled “Monika” – her middle name.

Most recently in town to talk business and politics, U.S. under-secretary Catherine Novelli flew into the Kingdom on June 8 to maintain negotiations of developing a bilateral investment agreement between the two countries to progress trade inclusion. Novelli also met with local rangers at the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary to underscore US support of protecting wildlife habitats and the imperativeness of enforcing forest law.

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