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Obama’s Speech Important Gesture: Lawmakers

President Barack Obama’s trip to the Middle East and his overtures to the Muslim world were important gestures to the world, including Cambodians, lawmakers said Thursday.

Four Cambodian legislators joined “Hello VOA” in Washington, to discuss their trip with four other lawmakers to Washington, as guests of the National Democratic Institute.

Obama spoke in Cairo, calling for “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.”

Obama spoke at Cairo University, but his message was intended for more than one billion Muslims around the world.

Cambodia has an estimated half a million Muslims.

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yiep, who is visiting Washington with the NDI delegation, called Obama’s speech “a great gesture.”

“His speech will be a great influence on the people of the world,” CPP parliamentarian Sik Bunhok said. “It emphasizes his goal to make friendship, reconciliation with all nations and his determination to resolve problems through peaceful means.”

Lawmakers Nin Saphon (CPP), Ho Naun (CPP), Cheam Yiep (CPP), Sik Bunhok (CPP), Eng Chhai Eang (Sam Rainsy Party), Kuoy Bunroeun (SRP), Mao Monyvann (SRP) and Yem Ponharith (Human Right Party) are visiting the US as part of NDI’s study mission, “Constituent Outreach and Oversight of the Extractive Industries.”

Eng Chhai Eang told “Hello VOA” he was “impressed with the US president’s speech,” which “shows a new US policy for a Muslim world that was not happy with the US.”

“I think President Obama wants to end the misunderstanding between the two sides,” he said. “I think this is great for the world.”

Yem Ponharith noted that US policy is “very important to the world.”

“In Cambodia,” he said, “people of all faith live in harmony.”

One caller, from Battambang province, asked what the benefit to US citizens was for the US “always warring against Muslims, such as Iraq and Iran.”

Cheam Yiep said, in his view, Barack Obama was seeking a peaceful world “that has unity, without discrimination against religion, without discrimination against race.”