Trade between Cambodia and Switzerland amounted to about US$60 million during 2011, with a 37 per cent increase in Cambodian exports to Switzerland, compared to 2010, according to Switzerland’s honourary consul general Pierre Tami.
Tami and about 150 Swiss citizens in Cambodia celebrate Swiss National Day today along with the 49th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Cambodia.
Tami, the founder of the NGO Hagar that supports distressed women and their children and is also the CEO of a new social investment fund called Shift 360, says next year’s 50th anniversary on August 1, 2013, will have celebrations based on the Swiss-Cambodian relationship.
Tami’s current project is to develop a culinary academy that brings in a high standard of Swiss-style quality training for chefs in Cambodia.
Swiss companies that have operations or representative offices in Cambodia include Holcim, Schindler, DKSH, Diethelm Travel, Victorinox, Sika and others.
Local Swiss-run entities include Web Essentials and Tell Restaurant. Swiss tourist arrivals in Cambodia during 2011 amounted to 16,395, up 5 per cent from 2010, according to the Cambodian government.
Switzerland contributed $50,000 in humanitarian aid during the 2011 floods. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation will launch their Phnom Penh office this coming September 21, according to Tami.
Official Swiss development cooperation amounted to $5 million in 2011, mostly to Kanta Bopha Hospital and Toni el Suizo’s footpath bridges, Hagar International NGO and Hagar Social Enterprises, and support for the Mekong Region Commission, Tami said.
Tami said the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand were all under the jurisdiction of the Swiss Embassy in Bangkok.
“In the absence of an embassy here in Cambodia, I act as honorary consul general for Switzerland,” Tami said. “I’m not a full time diplomat.”
Tami, 54, comes from the only Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland, Ticino, out of 26 total Swiss cantons. He has spent 30 years in Asia with his wife Simonetta and only 24 in Switzerland. He has three daughters and two grandchildren.
“We have a strong sense of self-determination,” Tami said of the Swiss people.
He loves cooking, completed his compulsory service in the Swiss Army and takes pride in the constitutional and civic virtues of his mountainous native country, famous for fine watches, chocolate and skiing.
Switzerland also produced a man named Henry Dunant who witnessed and wrote about the Battle of Solferino in 1859 and thus inspired the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, a global humanitarian organization based in Geneva which endures to this day. In 1901, Dunant received the first Nobel Peace Prize. The Geneva Convention of 1864 is based on Dunant’s ideas.
Switzerland is also the home of Nestle, the 7th largest multi-national company in the world.
“We are known for hospitality and skiing as well as the commercial side with banking and industry. We are strong with machinery, luxury goods like watches, chemicals and pharmaceutical,” Tami said.
Tami is particularly proud of Switzerland’s constitutional values of peace, democracy and international laws.
“The human rights centre of the world is in Switzerland and a lot of UN people go there. If you have peace and human rights issues, you go to Switzerland, because we host the headquarters.”
Switzerland was founded in 1291 and is 721 years old.
The embedded values in the Swiss constitution were written in 1878, values which Swiss people still hold as defining to national identity.
“We have direct democracy and a small group of citizens have the right to challenge national decisions, while at the same time preserving national unity and diversity. We consist of for different kinds of people (German, French, Italian and Romansch Speaking),” Tami said.
Swiss nationals are invited to dinner tonight at Tell Restaurant at 7pm as part of the Swiss National Day celebrations in Cambodia.
“We have a spirit of solidarity and openness to the world. We have the Red Cross and we attach ourselves to humanitarian values,” Tami said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]