King Sihamoni, US envoy Murphy meet

PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN) - US Ambasador Patrick Murphy has hiked to the top of Phnom Bakheng temple, ridden his bike around Silk Island, had clothing tailored and indulged in Phnom Penh’s famous street food offerings – but he has still not met a single government representative in his official capacity.

US Ambasador Patrick Murphy has hiked to the top of Phnom Bakheng
temple, ridden his bike around Silk Island, had clothing tailored and
indulged in Phnom Penh’s famous street food offerings – but he has still
not met a single government representative in his official capacity.

“After presenting myself as the new US ambassador before the King, I
am waiting to meet with members of the Cambodian government to discuss
efforts in strengthening the bond of friendship between the two
countries,” Murphy said on Twitter.

This came soon after he formally introduced himself to King
Norodom Sihamoni on Saturday – exactly a month after arriving in the
Kingdom.

In his official video address after he was appointed ambassador,
Murphy committed to strengthening US-Cambodia cooperation in
development, trade, public health, law, culture and people-to-people
exchanges, adding that he had visited the Kingdom on several previous
occasions.

“I am committed to helping our two countries strengthen these
and other ties, as well as support a healthy prosperous democratic and
independent Cambodia,” he said.

Murphy’s appointment comes amid strained US-Cambodia relations.

There is currently a bipartisan US Senate and Congress move being
considered to potentially suspend the Kingdom’s access to the
Generalised System of Preferences – a trade preferences scheme offering
reduced tariffs on certain Cambodian exports – through the Cambodia
Democracy Act.

Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said he considered
Murphy’s meeting with King Sihamoni to be a tacit recognition of Prime
Minister Hun Sen’s landslide election victory last year, despite the
pending bill.

“Undoubtedly, when the US decides to send its Ambassador to the
Kingdom, it recognises the Cambodian government elected last year. So
the outlawed rebels [Cambodia National Rescue Party] are now hopeless
because the US Ambassador was not sent to meet [them],” Eysan said.

The director-general of the International Relations Institute at the
Royal Academy of Cambodia Kin Phea told The Post that Murphy’s remarks
were “positive” because they indicated a “greater commitment and honest
effort to improve relations”.

“If one postures as the boss and the other acts like a subordinate,
there will be undue pressure and the relations will not be smooth,” he
said.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay told The Post that it would be
difficult for the US to observe the Kingdom’s foreign policy, given
Cambodia’s “iron-clad friendship with China” and “the US government’s
readiness to use coercive diplomacy”.

US Embassy spokesperson Emily Zeeberg could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

However, last December Murphy issued a two-page statement to the US
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations which read: “If I am to be
recognised, I will work closely with the US Congress to make progress in
the US interest in Cambodia, promote basic democracy, human rights and
freedom.”

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