First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone for the many questions you have asked these last couple of weeks. The reason I enjoy writing this column so much is because of all the interesting feedback I get from my readers so please continue to send your questions to me at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov.
A topic that has been raised several times recently by my readers is Cambodia’s international role. Some of you are wondering how Cambodia will continue to be important in world affairs now that it has concluded its chairmanship of ASEAN. Leaders from across the globe came to Cambodia last year to participate in ASEAN meetings, but that won’t happen again this year. So how does Cambodia stay relevant?
Like you, I want to see Cambodia continue to raise its international profile. I want Cambodia to stay “in the spotlight.” If international players continue to pay attention to Cambodia, I believe there will be more positive changes for Cambodia in the years ahead.
You will remember my recent column about the trips I took to Singapore and Thailand in order to promote investment opportunities in Cambodia. I am planning more trips like those. I will continue talking to American companies about the vibrant economic environment here. Cambodia is becoming more and more hospitable to business, and I want more people to know about it.
Also, in the next few months, I will be hosting a number of high-level U.S. officials, whose visits demonstrate the importance that the United States continues to place on its relationship with Cambodia and its people. Let me tell you briefly about three of these visitors.
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu will lead a delegation, which will also include three members of Congress, to meet with Cambodian officials and other representatives to see how our two countries can strengthen our ability to work together on child welfare issues. Senator Landrieu is a strong advocate for the protection and well-being of children and families. In particular, Senator Landrieu wants to see how we can ensure that children outside of family care can find permanent, loving families. One way to do this is through intercountry adoptions. As a signatory to the Hague Adoption Convention, an international agreement to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child, Cambodia has made commitments to strengthen its systems for processing such adoptions. Cambodia is making good progress toward this goal, and I am sure Senator Landrieu’s visit will play an important role in helping Cambodia further along.
I am also looking forward to the visit of Lieutenant General Thomas Conant, the Deputy Commander of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). Approximately 325,000 military and civilian personnel – about one-fifth of total U.S. military strength – are assigned to PACOM, which has an area of responsibility that covers nearly half the earth’s surface, stretching from the waters off the U.S. West Coast to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole. General Conant’s meetings in Cambodia will highlight the growing cooperation between the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the U.S. military. This cooperation has already led to the sharing of knowledge and experience between our two militaries across a range of important activities, including peacekeeping operations, maritime security, and military professionalization. General Conant’s visit to Cambodia will focus attention on Cambodia’s role as a responsible regional partner and one that is actively engaged in UN peacekeeping and demining efforts.
The third visitor I want to mention is Assistant Secretary Michael Posner, the head of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. As such, he will be coming to Cambodia to learn more about the current Cambodian situation on these issues and how the United States can help Cambodia take steps to strengthen its democratic process and provide greater protection of human rights and labor rights for its people as the country seeks to demonstrate to the world that it is serious about free and fair elections, good governance, and respect for the rule of law.
In the months ahead, the U.S. Embassy will continue to work to promote Cambodia’s role in international affairs. We believe that Cambodia will remain the focus of international attention as it implements positive changes and continues its development. That is why my staff and I are working hard to help Cambodia promote foreign investment, improve its system for intercountry adoptions, enhance the professionalization of its armed forces, and strengthen democracy and good governance.
Thank you for taking the time to read my column this week. Please remember that it is meant to be a two-way exchange, so I encourage you to send me your questions in English or Khmer at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov and to follow my blog at http://blogs.usembassy.gov/todd/.
William E. Todd is U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia