US Ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy met with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn on May 17 for talks on bilateral and regional issues as well as US efforts to stand with Cambodia in the fight against Covid-19, according to a press release from the US embassy.
“In his meeting with the Foreign Minister, Ambassador Patrick Murphy expressed his condolences for the losses that Cambodia has suffered during the latest Covid-19 outbreak,” said US embassy spokesperson Chad Roedemeier via email on May 18.
He wrote that the US has been a steadfast partner to Cambodia during the global pandemic, noting that the US government has provided more than $11 million in direct Covid-19-related assistance and critical technical assistance that built upon longstanding health-focused partnerships.
Cambodia, he said, will receive a total of 1.1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines through the World Health Organisation (WHO) Covax initiative by the end of May and that the US has provided over $4 billion in funding to the WHO for that initiative.
With regards to regional issues of concern, Murphy said the US supported the efforts of Cambodia and other ASEAN member states in promoting democratic processes, institutions and the rule of law in the region, including in Myanmar.
“Instability created by the military coup affects the entire region and ASEAN countries have an important role to play to help restore [Myanmar’s] path toward democracy. We encourage ASEAN to engage all relevant stakeholders in [Myanmar] in seeking a resolution to the crisis,” the embassy stated.
Foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment on May 18.
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the meeting between Murphy and Sokhonn was a good step towards promoting mutual trust as the two countries had sometimes had conflicting views on certain issues.
“We have seen that both countries have different views on some matters. But lately we have also seen that the US has been attempting to restore trust between the two countries.
“I believe that the restoration of trust and the ability to speak frankly to each other is in the best interests of strengthening the relationship and I noticed that the meeting was actually to talk about Cambodia being the chair of the ASEAN summit in 2022,” Phea said.
Phea said Murphy likely wanted to see if the Myanmar crisis could be discussed or possibly even resolved with Cambodia’s help when the country holds the ASEAN chair next year.
However, Phea said, though Cambodia has been active recently in helping to solve regional issues, some were extremely complicated and it may not be possible to find a solution within that time period.
“But as far as willingness and commitment go, Cambodia wishes to actively contribute to solving regional issues, whether that’s with Myanmar or the South China Sea issue or those related to natural disasters,” he said.
Phea said he believed that as the ASEAN chair in 2022, Cambodia will use the opportunity to help cool down some of these heated regional issues even if it isn’t able to provide complete solutions to them.