King Norodom Sihamoni granted an audience to French President Emmanuel Macron at Paris’ Elysee Palace, during his official visit to France. The French president pledged continued assistance in the health and cultural sectors, and encouraged the Kingdom’s candidacy to host a 2026 Francophone event. 

“The King noted France’s close attention to Cambodia through many forms of assistance, both through socio-economic development and also cultural support,” said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press release, following the November 13 meeting.

The release added that the King expressed his gratitude to the French government for its key role in the task of preserving Cambodian culture and the Angkor Archaeological Park. France will continue to support Cambodia until 2032, regarding it as a priority work.

The King expected that continued cooperation between the National Museum of Cambodia and the Guimet Museum of France would achieve fruitful results across the projects they are working on, including the expansion of the Kingdom’s national museum and the repair of several bronze Vishnu sculptures which will be exhibited in France.

According to the ministry, Macron reaffirmed French commitment to continued assistance in various sectors, most notably the health sector through animal-to- human disease transmission prevention programmes, telesurgery and the use of artificial intelligence.

“We will also assist Cambodia with cultural support, particularly the project to repair the bronze Vishnu sculptures which are to be exhibited in France. We will also send French technicians to study and repair the Pavillon Napoleon III at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh,” he said.

He added that the success of inter-government mechanisms in the conservation of the Angkor area served as a model of multilateralism.

King Norodom Sihanomi and French president Emmanuel Macron meet in Paris on November 13. AFPAFP

During the audience, the King told Macron that Cambodia will host a future Francophone event.  Macron encouraged Cambodia to host the meeting with French-speaking countries in 2026, saying that France would endorse the Kingdom’s candidacy.

The King said Cambodia was proud to have submitted its candidacy.

“The support of  France is priceless. Their support reflects their will to strengthen the key presence of France in Asia,” he added.

At the end of the audience, Macron extended an invitation for the King to attend the 19th Francophone summit, to be held in France on October 4-5, 2024. In return, the King invited the President and his wife to attend the 20th Francophone summit, should the Kingdom be awarded hosting duties.

Macron said he would be pleased to attend the summit.

Pa Chanroeun, president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy (CID), noted France’s long relationship with Cambodia. France has collaborated with the Kingdom in politics, socio-economic and cultural sectors, and notably contributed to the Paris Peace Agreements.

“Cambodia and France should further increase cooperation in all sectors. I have observed that French influence in Cambodia seemed to have diminished in the last decade, and as French investment has decreased, so has the number of French speakers,” he added.

He continued that given foreign policy today, France saw Cambodia as a member of ASEAN which has always supported France on the international stage. The two countries can support one another, so they should further strengthen bilateral cooperation.