It is my great pleasure to send a message to my dear Cambodian friends on the special occasion of the 81st birthday of His Majesty Emperor Akihito of Japan.
This year was the year when we took a step further in crystallising “the strategic partnership” which the prime ministers of our two countries agreed to upgrade last year. During the year, some important dignitaries from Japan visited Cambodia, such as the minister of economy, trade, and industry who visited in April, the minister of foreign affairs who visited in June, the minister of land, infrastructure and transportation and the vice-president of the House of Councillors who both visited in August. The negotiation of the agreement between Japan and Cambodia for air service has also been completed this year and will be signed at the beginning of next year.
In relation to the economy, more and more Japanese companies have started, and expanded, their businesses in Cambodia during the last year. The number of Japanese residents and visitors has also increased a lot, and the number of Japanese residents in Cambodia now exceeds 2,200 according to official statistics.
Regarding Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) cooperation, important projects have led to significant advances in physical infrastructure and social infrastructure such as medical services and schools, the development of human resources and the strengthening of governance. The construction of the Neak Loeung Bridge on National Road 1, which crosses over the Mekong River, is being funded with a grant assistance from Japan and is continuing to progress steadily toward its completion next spring.
The government of Japan has placed increasing emphasis on assisting the development of human resources and, as a result, more than 100 JICA experts, Young Japan Oversees Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) and senior volunteers, who have been sent by the government of Japan, are currently making considerable contributions to capacity building in Cambodia.
I am happy to report that interest in Japanese culture is increasing too. For example, more than 10,000 people participated in the Japan-Cambodia KIZUNA Festival, which was co-hosted by the embassy and the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC) this past February.
Through exchange programs between the peoples of the two countries, a total of 507 young Cambodians have visited Japan this year as part of the “JENESYS 2.0” framework, one of the Japanese government’s youth exchange programs. In November, under the “Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Program (SSEAYP)”, a large ship made a port call in Cambodia for the first time, and 319 young people from Southeast Asia and Japan took part in various exchange activities from the ship, including homestays.
The number of recipients of Japanese government scholarships has also continued to increase steadily year on year, and now exceeds 900 in total.
As reported by our consular services, more and more Cambodian people have visited Japan this year with the number of visas issued increasing by 50 per cent compared with last year, reaching the 6,500 mark. I fully expect that more Cambodian people will find opportunities to visit Japan next year.
In the coming year, 2015, I would like to continue to steadily build up the relationship between Japan and Cambodia in various fields and I expect that the recent increase in momentum in the strengthening of the bilateral relationship we have with Cambodia will be maintained.
Lastly, I would like to express my best wishes for the good health, happiness and longevity of His Majesty Emperor Akihito of Japan, His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni and Her Majesty the Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk. I would also like to wish the readers of The Phnom Penh Post all the best for the coming year.