Thank you to everyone for your continued interest in a dialogue. I am delighted by all of the questions that I am receiving for my “Ask the Ambassador” column. Please continue to send me more questions at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov.
This past week, I was honored to welcome Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Phnom Penh to participate in the ASEAN Regional Forum. She told me how happy she was to be back in Cambodia and what an important role Cambodia had to play as the 2012 ASEAN Chair. She was also pleased to have the chance to meet with so many Cambodians from many walks of life during her stay.
The Secretary arrived in Phnom Penh on July 11 and went straight to the Peace Palace for dialogues with Cambodian officials such as Prime Minister Hun Sen and with her counterparts from all over the Southeast Asia region. The issues covered in these exchanges were broad and varied – economic, strategic, and people-to-people engagement – including the Lower Mekong Initiative and women’s empowerment, a topic of particular importance to her.
Then in Siem Reap, Secretary Clinton met with female Cambodian workers and delivered the keynote address for the Lower Mekong Initiative Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy Dialogue, which brought people from throughout the Lower Mekong sub-region together to share ideas on female empowerment. Later, the Secretary joined more than 200 international business and government leaders from throughout the region – including two Prime Ministers and a President– at the U.S.-ASEAN Business Forum, where she highlighted the vital importance of U.S.-ASEAN trade relations and economic ties.
Secretary Clinton’s visit was extremely impactful. It was a sweeping, multi-issue visit that allowed her to further gender equality, demonstrate America’s commitment to the Asia region and, perhaps most importantly, to discuss a variety of important issues with Cambodia’s leaders – issues that I know affect your day-to-day lives. The Secretary told me how much she enjoyed her stay in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, mentioning the beautiful Cambodian landscape and how she appreciated Cambodia’s famed hospitality. And I was grateful for the opportunity to share with her everything I love about Cambodia, from the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor to the wonderful range of cuisine and architecture you can find on any street corner in Phnom Penh.
I was also able to ask her personally some of the questions you’ve submitted to this column, such as, “What educational opportunities does the United States offer Cambodian students?” One program that Secretary Clinton specifically mentioned during her visit was the creation of a pilot Fulbright-ASEAN exchange program to deepen the educational ties between not only Cambodia and the United States, but between the United States and ASEAN as a whole. I am excited about this program because it expands the U.S. government’s flagship Fulbright educational program to a whole new level. Senator J. William Fulbright, for whom the program is named, envisioned an educational exchange program that would increase mutual understanding and promote leadership development through learning and international cooperation. Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided over 300,000 participants with the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research in the United States and more than 155 other countries. Since the early 1990s, more than 130 Cambodians have participated in the program. This new Fulbright initiative at the ASEAN level will provide Cambodians with even more opportunities to receive advanced degrees from U.S. universities, which are among the finest educational institutions in the world. I look forward to helping in the selection of new Cambodian scholars for this prestigious program.
That’s all for the column this week. I look forward to receiving more e-mails from you with more intriguing questions. As always, please write to me at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov and feel free to tell me what you thought about Secretary Clinton’s visit to Cambodia. In fact, ask me anything you’d like. I look forward to hearing from you.
William E. Todd, United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia