On August 9, 2016, Singapore turns 51. It is a day we celebrate with Singaporeans and friends of Singapore; and the Kingdom of Cambodia is one of our long-standing friends.
In fact, Cambodia was one of the first countries to recognise our young nation when we first gained independence in 1965. Last year was therefore a double Golden Jubilee celebration of Singapore’s National Day and the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Cambodia. We celebrated this milestone with a number of commemorative events. These included an exchange of letters between top leaders of both countries, Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen’s attendance of Singapore’s Jubilee National Day Parade as an honoured guest, and the introductory visit of Singapore Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob to Cambodia.
Singapore-Cambodia relations are excellent, reinforced by frequent exchange of high-level visits. We hope to build on this momentum with visits by Singapore President Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. Our economic links are robust and growing. Singapore is one of Cambodia’s key trading partners with over $1.1 billion in total trade in 2015.
More Singaporean companies are establishing a presence in Cambodia. This has propelled Singapore to become Cambodia’s third largest investor in 2015 with $100 million in approved investments. The signing of an agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation between the respective Finance Ministries this year will serve to strengthen our economic ties.
Our warm and friendly relationship is underpinned and bolstered by extensive people-to-people ties. There are more than forty weekly flights between Singapore and Cambodia, and almost 68,000 Singaporeans visited Cambodia in 2015. This is an increase of about 10,000 from 2013, and includes various youth groups from Singaporean schools and the Youth Corps who participate in community engagement projects in Cambodia.
Singapore understands the desire of Cambodians to develop and progress their country. A key means to doing so is strengthening human capital. To that end, Singapore works closely with Cambodia to support capacity-building programmes for the Kingdom under the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP). Regular courses are conducted for Cambodian officials in wide-ranging areas such as public administration, sustainable development, urban planning, business development, trade negotiation, tourism, disaster management, information and communication technology, and the English language.
The majority of these courses are conducted in the Cambodia-Singapore Training Centre (CSTC) in Phnom Penh. To date, 7,800 have participated in courses at the CSTC, bringing the total number of Cambodian officials trained under the SCP to almost 12,500. Singapore regularly reviews our courses to ensure that they remain relevant to the development needs of Cambodia.
Regionally, Singapore and Cambodia work closely together in ASEAN. Singapore, like Cambodia, is committed to ASEAN’s community-building efforts. Following the establishment of the ASEAN Community last year, ASEAN has adopted a post-2015 vision entitled ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together. All ASEAN members, including Cambodia and Singapore, stand to benefit from a strong and well-integrated ASEAN community.
On this happy occasion, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cambodia and its people for the long-standing and warm friendship it has shown to Singapore. As we celebrate the first of the next 50 years of the Singapore Story, I wish all Cambodians and Singaporeans good health and success!