You are an Ambassador in a hurry to reignite Malaysia – Cambodia relations. Could you tell us about your achievements since your arrival about four months ago?
I am actively going around and meeting ministers, governors, mayors, politicians and academicians to promote bilateral relations and to reiterate the commitment we have pledged between Malaysia and Cambodia to further explore new windows of opportunity for the mutual benefit of both countries. I am proud to say that so far I have managed to renegotiate several pending issues and encourage both sides to start discussions and address the matters accordingly.
I also managed to initiate new collaborations and future engagements, especially in the field of security cooperation. Our priorities are to ensure that the safety of the region and that the means of achieving these are through strengthening of training, meetings, joint engagements and exchanges of information which is vital for both countries. We have managed to secure a few training programmes, commencing in September 2019.
In terms of trade and investment, within 3 month I have engaged and visited more than 40 Malaysian companies and 100 over Malaysian business people here in Cambodia. I have introduced a social gathering concept called “Teh Tarik Session” to gather all Malaysian in different province and engage with them to know their success stories and their problems so that we can address the issue to assist them. We started the project in Siem Reap and the response we received was overwhelming. Because of the active engagement within the 3 month, I have managed to secure a proposed visit by the Honourable Chief Minister of Selangor and Chief Minister of Malacca in October and December respectively. Both Chief Ministers will be accompanied by Malaysian investors.
What was the most poignant moments of your numerous official and courtesy calls on His Majesty, Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministers and other officials?
All my calls and meetings here in Cambodia are interesting, beneficial and extraordinarily awesome. During the royal audience with His Majesty, I was overwhelmed by the deep knowledge and understanding of His Majesty about the bilateral relations of both countries. The wisdom of the His Majesty goes beyond the normal greetings and the round of topics we discussed really touched the roots of the relations that I truly am honoured to learn from His Majesty.
During my calls on Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen, we covered a wide scope from economic collaboration to finding better and stronger mechanisms to enhance the long standing relations we had with Cambodia. I am honoured to have the opportunity to spend more than one hour with the Prime Minister and learned about his political thoughts, social development and some of the popular songs composed by the Prime Minister himself.
As for the all 21 calls on various ministers, I can conclude that we had a great time and many pending issues were discussed at great details. I managed to address all the major points and challenges with the respective ministers and actions are being taken to iron out these issues by both sides officials.
2020 is visit Malaysia year. How will the embassy and the local tourism office promote Malaysia to Cambodia as a tourist and shopping heaven?
Tourism is one of the main contributor that generates income to the country. We have been actively talking to the relevant ministry and local agencies on promoting 2020 Visit Malaysia Year. I have already written to the Minister of Tourism Malaysia to suggest a comprehensive plan on how to attract Cambodians to visit Malaysia. Projects such as Food Festival, cultural dance performances and fashion shows have been presented to me by our Tourism team here and I will be talking to the local media to announce the date and place soon.
What would be the steps taken to promote Malaysia as a medical destination for medical tourism?
I have been actively promoting medical tourism and working together with the Malaysia Medical Tourism team way back when I was the Malaysian Consul General in Mumbai in 2014. Winning multiple international awards in a wide range of medical specialties, Malaysia and its elite private hospitals offer world-class quality healthcare to patients from around the world, with the benefit of competitive affordability and high accessibility.
I am proud to say that Malaysia’s Healthcare is among the most affordable healthcare services in the world that offers unparalleled standards of quality and care. In the recent years, almost 1 million health travellers arrived in Malaysia from around the globe, seeking healthcare treatments such as cardiology, IVF, neurology, gastroenterology, dentistry and health screening.
In your opinion, what would be the potential investment and growth areas for Malaysian investors in Cambodia. Those already here and those who are looking at Cambodia?
There is a lot of potential for doing business in Cambodia, especially in the areas of agriculture, solar, IT and infra-structure. During my calls with the relevant Ministers and State Secretary, I emphasised on the need for the Cambodian government to facilitate the Malaysian businessmen who want to come and invest in Cambodia. Tol date, we already have an estimated 400 companies and a majority of them are with big investment capitals.
Many foreign investors have shown great interest in exploring these sectors and we must consider joining the bandwagon in order not to be left out. I have repeatedly mentioned that I am ever ready (with MARTADE) to assist Malaysian companies in facilitating the process. We also have many Malaysian companies showing interest in financial sectors, food and beverages as well as hotels. I am optimistic that with the visit of YAB Prime Minister, many more will come to Cambodia.
What is the mandate, given to you when appointed to this position as Ambassador?
Being an Ambassador I live under constant and new challenges that need to be dealt with. Events in the host country and international arena are fluid, like the flow of a gerrymeandering sea or river, meaning that we always have to be on the ball at all times.
Ambassadors are the top political representatives of one country in another country, and have a broad set of social and political responsibilities. My mandate or priorities are for Malaysia to be No 1 again in Cambodia and to be a winner and I want every Malaysian living and working here in Cambodia to be a winner too. Put simply, as an Ambassador I want our fellow Malaysians to have a clear plan to seize the economic opportunities in Cambodia and manage the strategic challenges that will arise.
In terms of bilateral relations with Cambodia, we need to strengthen Malaysia’s deep and broad relationships such as social and cultural as well as political and economic. Improving people to people contact link can unlock large economic and social building relationships with Cambodia. I believe a stronger relationship with Cambodia and active engagement, especially among the business community of both countries, will lead to more Malaysians having a deeper and better understanding of what is happening in Cambodia and being able to access the benefits of growth and its potentials before expanding their business here in Cambodia.
The visit of Prime Minister Tun Dr., Mahathir Mohamad comes immediately after Merdeka. How did you make this happen and get the Cambodian government to receive him again officially for the second time after 25 years?
The Government of Cambodia was very happy to learn that YAB Prime Minister will be making an Official Visit to Cambodia. In fact, I am extremely happy that our Prime Minister decided to come and visit us after 25 years since his last official visit to Cambodia in 1994. It is also great since our Merdeka celebration will mark the 62 years of our independence as well as our bilateral relations with Cambodia which also coincidentally, is 62 years.
Would any bilateral agreements and investment agreements be signed during the visit?
We are working on concluding a few agreements especially to boost the economy and bilateral cooperation. At the moment I want it to be a surprise and let both Prime Ministers to make the announcement.