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PM, US lawmaker talk ramping up bilateral ties

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Prime Minister Hun Sen meets with US lawmakers Elizabeth Van Duyne and her delegation on August 29. SPM

PM, US lawmaker talk ramping up bilateral ties

Prime Minister Hun Sen and visiting US Congresswoman Elizabeth Van Duyne on August 29 expressed their commitment to enhance bilateral relations, particularly in matters of trade, investment and education.

Van Duyne – a member of the Republican Party who has been elected to office in Texas’ 24th district – led a congressional delegation that included her colleague from Tennessee on this visit to promote cooperation between the two countries.

Hun Sen’s assistant Eang Sophalleth told reporters after the meeting that Van Duyne spoke about the decades of hard work and tireless efforts made by the premier to bring about comprehensive peace, stability and development that the Kingdom enjoys today.

Sophalleth said the visit by the US congressional delegation aims to help bilateral relations reach their full potential through cooperation in the aforementioned sectors.

“[Hun Sen] agreed with [Van Duyne] that we must look ahead and grab hold of the many opportunities currently available – especially in trade, investment and education – all of which can serve as the basis for strengthening the relationship between our two countries and raising it to another level,” he said.

In mid-August, a larger group of US lawmakers from both houses of congress including Senator Edward Markey – who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Sub-Committee on East Asia and the Pacific – and Representatives John Garamendi, Don Beyer, Alan Lowenthal, Aumua Amata and Coleman Radewagen also visited Cambodia.

According to the US embassy in Phnom Penh, the previous congressional delegation met with government officials and civil society representatives in Phnom Penh to discuss climate change, press freedoms, political participation, labour and human rights.

They also visited Siem Reap to experience Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage, including paying an early morning visit to Angkor Wat to enjoy its spectacular sunrise views.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new $25 million project called “Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest III,” to promote food security and economic growth in Cambodia’s agriculture sector.

The five-year Harvest III project is managed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

“We believe in this programme, we believe in our partners, and we want to do much more good work together,” Blinken said. “It’s critical that we strengthen global food security and address the root causes of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.”

Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, said visits by elected and appointed US officials to Cambodia to meet with government leaders here is crucial for both sides in understanding the political culture of each country and for promoting bilateral trade.

Mengdavid noted that the US has frequently accused Cambodia of human rights violations, among other issues, which negatively affects the Kingdom’s reputation on the international stage.

“All of those accusations cause controversy and complicate the Cambodia-US relationship. So, meetings like these are an opportunity for Cambodia to explain to lawmakers from the two major US parties their views and provide facts on the political, socio-economic situation here, as well as helping them to better understand the Kingdom’s policy of neutrality,” he said.

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