Relations with the United States are beginning to warm after Ambassador Patrick Murphy met with senior Royal Cambodian Armed Forces officials Tuesday to discuss bilateral ties with the Kingdom.
The US embassy in Phnom Penh on Facebook said Mr Murphy spoke with RCAF commander-in-chief General Vong Pisen after the two met at the High Command Headquarters.
“Ambassador Murphy discussed the progress needed to broaden security collaboration, including steps to advance democracy and human rights and to protect the Kingdom’s sovereignty from any foreign military basing,” it said.
The embassy said Mr Murphy urged the armed forces to protect civil society and partner with its members.
“Cambodia needs to advance efforts on human rights, the environment, gender equality, land rights, rule of law, and other important issues,” it said.
The embassy statement noted Mr Murphy thanked Gen Pisen for committing to prevent intimidation and harassment of people and organisations.
US-Cambodian relations have soured over the past two years following the dissolution of the former opposition CNRP in 2017 in the lead up to last year’s national election, leaving the question of whether Cambodia would continue to help the US recover the remains of servicemen missing in action during the Vietnam War.
Mr Murphy, who officially took his post as US Ambassador earlier this year, last month delivered a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen from US President Donald Trump saying Mr Trump wants US-Cambodia relations mended.
“Today Ambassador Patrick Murphy met with Prime Minister Hun Sen. They continued their discussion on US support for the Cambodian people and on democracy and rights steps that will strengthen the bilateral relationship,” the US embassy said on Facebook last month.
Kao Kim Hourn, Minister attached to the Prime Minister, spoke of Mr Trump’s letter after the meeting between Mr Murphy and Mr Hun Sen.
“The letter emphasises that the US intends to continue to improve the bilateral relationship,” he said. “The important thing is that the US is highly committed to supporting Cambodia, especially respecting Cambodia’s sovereignty.”
Major General Thong Solimo, spokesman for the RCAF’s General Command Headquarters, yesterday said Gen Pisen applauded Mr Murphy’s meeting with Mr Hun Sen in November.
Maj Gen Solimo said Mr Trump’s letter demonstrates the US’s intention to not meddle in the Kingdom’s internal affairs.
“Gen Pisen said good collaborations with the United States will continue through exchanges of visits and POW/MIA accounting,” he said.
Maj Gen Solimo said Mr Murphy noted the US will help train Cambodian peacekeepers and support other sectors in future as well.
He said Mr Murphy also agreed a report published by the media reporting on Chinese military presence at Ream Naval base earlier this year was false.
“The ambassador considered that the story was untruthful,” Maj Gen Solimo said, noting the constitution does not allow any foreign military presence unless it is under UN framework.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday said Cambodia is committed to upholding its independence and sovereignty.
“We believe we do everything to maintain and protect independence and neutrality by not allowing foreign military presence,” Mr Siphan said.