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US Senator holds talks on ‘strengthening cooperation’

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Washington State Senator Doug Ericksen (left) held talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhon (foreground) in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. Heng Chivoan

US Senator holds talks on ‘strengthening cooperation’

Washington State Senator Doug Ericksen and delegates held talks in Phnom Penh with Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhon on Wednesday aimed at strengthening cooperation between Cambodia and the United States.

According to Meas Kim Heng, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ericksen expressed his desire to return to Cambodia as an observer during the national elections in July, the free and fair nature of which has raised concerns among the international community.

“During the meeting, [Ericksen] stressed that because Cambodia will organise an election in the coming months, he wanted to return to Cambodia as an election observer,” Heng told reporters after the talks.

“He wants to see Cambodia and the US have a good relationship, especially under the new foreign policy of President Donald Trump that the US not interfere with the sovereignty of other countries.”

Heng said that Ericksen had expressed satisfaction with the commune elections in 2017.

During his visit, Ericksen also held a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, President of Senate Say Chhum and other senior government officials.

‘Welcome to return’

Kao Kim Hourn, delegate minister attached to the prime minister, said on Monday Ericksen told the premier during a meeting that he wished to see the continued good cooperation between the US and Cambodia, especially relations between the people of both nations.

Kim Hourn quoted Ericksen as telling the premier: “The Cambodian people are the US’s friend, not an enemy, so is the Cambodian People’s Party. So we need to do our best to build good relations between the two countries.”

Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Election in Cambodia, said that the government and the National Election Committee (NEC) have appealed for national and international overseers to join the upcoming elections in July.

Kuntheamy said: “We welcome the US senator to return as an election observer; this will be a good way to evaluate the environment of the upcoming elections.”

NEC spokesman Dim Sovannarom said the number of international observers is not yet available as the application procedure is ongoing.

“Many countries have been applying for observer roles, and we welcome all countries, big or small,” Sovannarom said.

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