Prime Minister Hun Manet and US ambassador to Cambodia W Patrick Murphy held “fruitful” talks on September 27, while some sensitive issues were also discussed.

The meeting came just two days after Manet’s return from the US’ New York City, where he addressed the 78th UN General Assembly.

According to a Cabinet press statement following the meeting, Manet thanked the US for resuming the provision of $18 million in development aid through the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The funds will be used to improve health services at the state and private levels, sustainable environment protection, combating and prevention of tuberculosis and training for entrepreneurs.

Both sides discussed ways to accelerate the repatriation of Cambodians in the US who had been convicted of criminal offences, and agreed to expedite the identification process and simplify other procedures.

They deliberated over the establishment of support programmes which would enable the deportees to integrate and adapt to their new lives in Cambodia.

Both sides also touched on the search for the remains of American citizens who were lost during Vietnam War, also known as POWs/MIAs.

“[Manet] told the ambassador that the government pays close attention to this issue and has revised the procedures to facilitate and work with relevant stakeholders to search for the remains of the fallen POW/MIAs, who are all beloved family members,” added the statement.

A US embassy release described the discussions as “fruitful”.

Murphy acknowledged Manet’s productive engagements with US officials and business leaders last week in New York City, and other global pressing issues such as the implementation of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on North Korea, the protection of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and a resolution of the Myanmar crisis.

Murphy also highlighted the $3 billion in US foreign assistance provided to Cambodia over the past 30 years.

“While he noted the decision to resume several US foreign aid programmes is part of broader assistance which is critical to the health of the Cambodian people and the Kingdom’s sustainable development, the ambassador emphasised the importance of human rights and the protection of fundamental freedoms as integral to our bilateral relationship,” said the embassy statement.

It added that Murphy touched on Cambodia’s independence and the need for a balanced foreign policy, as well as of countering human trafficking and cyber scam operations.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the meeting between Manet and Murphy was a positive sign for bilateral ties and cooperation.

He said the two nations can only have good ties if they are both honest, and committed to improving the relationship.

Phea explained that Cambodia always wishes to enjoy good, frank relations with the US, with respect to its interests, sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-interference position. He questioned whether the US could make a frank commitment in all of these areas.

“Sitting together to hold these talks in person is already a positive sign – it is better than having their say via the media.

“Cambodia and the US should meet directly and speak frankly about their concerns and mutual interests, and explore strategies and any other methods whatsoever of lifting the ties between the two countries,” he added.