Prime Minister Hun Manet has urged all stakeholders in Cambodia’s sports sector to focus on cultivating athletes who can compete on the international stage.

He called on the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, as well as the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), to seek out representatives who will bring pride to the Kingdom.

Manet’s comments were made as he addressed a February 26 award ceremony, held to honour medal-winning athletes and coaches.

A total of 3.19 billion riel (approximately $780,000) in prizes was gifted to medallists and their coaches from world, Asian and Southeast Asian sporting competitions, as well as the ASEAN University Games, a biennial event that brings together athletes from the universities of the bloc’s member states.

“I offer my appreciation for the efforts of the leadership and officials of the education ministry and the NOCC, and in particular, our winning athletes and coaches. Their commitment to their training, as well as their accomplishments, are a source of pride for the motherland. What they have achieved is the result of the joint efforts of all stakeholders,” said Manet.

He also recalled the resounding success of Cambodia’s hosting of the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games for the first time in 2023.

Manet said it has raised national honour and the prestige of the Kingdom on the international stage, by strengthening diplomatic ties and cooperation with friendly countries. This has in turn promoted friendship, expanded international relations and boosted economic activity through tourism.

“Another national benefit of sports is to make the people more patriotic. This has contributed to the strengthening of national unity and peace in Cambodia. The significant progress of the sporting sector has played an important role in developing Cambodian society,” he explained.

Manet acknowledged that developing a depth of sporting talent takes time and investment, but said his government is willing to invest.

“Under the shadow of peace, national unity, political stability and economic growth, the government is paying close attention to the development of sports. We want to strengthen our athletes’ ability to excel in competition, and win more glory for the motherland,” he added.

The prime minister made four suggestions for the development of the Kingdom’s sporting prowess.

First, as the two senior sporting bodies, the ministry and NOCC must organise campaigns to support and encourage athletes at all levels to strengthen their abilities.

Secondly, they should monitor athletes and identify new talents, so specialised support can be offered to potential world-class sportsmen and women.

Third, he encouraged all coaches and athletes to practise their skills regularly so they are prepared to compete whenever necessary.

Finally, he called on the NOCC to develop its relations with international sporting bodies.

“The NOCC must increase its cooperation with the Olympic Council of Asia, the National Olympic Committee of the ASEAN member states, the Council of the Federation of Southeast Asian Games and the ASEAN Para Sports Federation, as well as other international sports institutions,” he said.

“This will allow our own sporting bodies to improve their technical abilities and provide our athletes with more opportunities to compete in international competitions,” he added.