Following the conclusion of the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) in the US’ New York City, Prime Minister Hun Manet and his spouse Pech Chanmony met with approximately 2,500 Cambodians residing in the US and Canada on September 23.

During the meeting, Manet expressed that this encounter exemplified the essence of Cambodian unity, portraying a sense of familial connection between Khmer and Khmer.

He noted that throughout September, he participated in the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia, undertook an official visit to China and attended the UNGA 78.

“Three key responsibilities held by all heads of government include diplomacy, politics and economics. Diplomacy serves as a means to forge connections and assert Cambodia’s status as a sovereign nation. Despite transitions in governance, a sovereign state maintains its rights and reputation, akin to other nations, including those of great influence,” he stated.

“In my capacity as the head of government, I participated in meetings held in Indonesia, China, and the UN assembly in the US,” he explained.

“During these events, I delivered speeches representing our government. It is worth noting, contrary to some assertions, that Cambodia’s diplomatic standing is on par with that of every UN member state, and we are not deemed an illegitimate government,” he emphasised.

In matters of politics, Manet asserted that Cambodia has reaffirmed its position. Despite being a modest-sized nation, it holds full UN membership and maintains political credibility concerning sovereignty and national concerns.

Notably, Cambodia has also expressed its concern regarding issues of international security, climate change and warfare.

“Economically, I have enhanced trade relationships, particularly in the export of agricultural products overseas, to secure market access for our farmers and all compatriots,” he said.

On assertions concerning the government being deemed “illegal or unrecognised”, he articulated that when a government or its leader transgresses the law or the Constitution, it raises a fundamental question: What forms the foundation for the government to operate within the framework of that law?

“We have based our diplomatic policies on principles of independence and the rule of law. If we lacked legitimacy ourselves, what course of action would be available to us? If the UN did not acknowledge Cambodia, I would not have attended the meeting. Furthermore, the UN itself acknowledged my role as the Cambodian Prime Minister,” he stressed.

“Hence, it is clear that the government possesses legal standing and enjoys international recognition. Therefore, there is no need for concern that Cambodia is governed unlawfully. We do not operate in such a manner,” he said.

“It is a fact that as of September 21, 59 heads of state and governments had conveyed congratulatory messages to me in my capacity as the Prime Minister,” he affirmed.

He reiterated that a turnout of over 8.2 million people in the July 2023 general election demonstrated their collective will to elect a leader.

“This represents legitimacy, as perceived by the voters themselves,” he stated.

“I express my gratitude to Cambodians abroad for their support and engagement in the electoral process. Some have conveyed messages to Cambodians within the country, urging them to participate in the polls. It is through systematic leadership selection that we can ensure peace,” he underscored.

He mentioned that in either November or December, he will participate in the inauguration of an airport in Siem Reap province, an airport more than twice the size of the previous one, built in anticipation of a rise in tourist numbers.

He also noted the significant progress in the construction of an international airport in Kandal province, just outsides the capital. The Techo International Airport (TIA) – formerly Techo Takhmao International Airport and touted as the result of efforts by his predecessor Hun Sen during the Covid-19 pandemic – is due to be completed in the first phase in 2024.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that over the past month, Manet has been engaged in diplomatic missions to strengthen diplomatic, political and economic ties with nations in the region and beyond. He noted that the nation’s political stance remains unchanged under the new government.

“I support the statements made by the Prime Minister, affirming our commitment to a neutral, permanent and non-aligned foreign policy. Cambodia adheres to a policy of peaceful coexistence with all nations, both in the region and globally,” he told The Post.

He explained that the July 23 election had created misunderstandings among the international community and the domestic population regarding the nation’s multiparty democratic processes. Therefore, Manet’s trip aimed to provide a clarification on the democratic process and the political landscape in the country.

“This trip also held political symbolism, reaffirming to both the national and international audience that [Manet] serves as the legitimate representative of the Cambodian government, duly elected through a free, fair and widely accepted election,” he said.

He also noted that Manet had engaged in meetings with development partners and leaders of international organisations to communicate Cambodia’s developmental goals.

“His mission holds a singular purpose of serving the nation’s best interests, ensuring peace, political stability, development and enhancing the nation’s standing on the international stage,” he said.