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US Sees Military, Health Partnerships Working

[Editor’s note: Carol Rodley became Cambodia’s ambassador in October 2008. In an interview with VOA Khmer in March, she discussed the growing relationship between Cambodia and the US, on topics ranging from the Khmer Rouge tribunal to the global financial crisis. Below is the third of a six-part series resulting from the interview.]

Q. Regarding health issues: in the past USAID has provided funds for Cambodia to fight avian influenza, or bird flu. Has the program continued?

A. The plan is working very well. It was in fact in cooperation with the US project that the recent bird flu outbreak in Kandal province [in November 2008] was detected. The case that was a month or so ago was detected by US medical research progress. What that case indicated to me was that the system that has been put in place with donors and the government’s health system, working together to do surveillance to detect cases and respond quickly when there is a case of avian influenza, works pretty well.

Once that one case was identified, the procedures were all there, and people swung into action to identify the patient, to find out who he had been in contact with, to find out where the bird came from that has made him sick, and to remove the infected animal from the flock. I think that’s a very good example of the government and donors and health experts working in collaboration to protect the health of Cambodian people and the world.

Q. In terms of the US-Cambodian military cooperation, in the past the US Navy has paid several visits to Cambodian port. Is it still going on?

A. At the end of this month [March] another ship is going to visit. This one will be a specialized kind of ship, a salvage ship. They will call for a few days at Ream Naval Base. They will do some workshops on maintenance and some technical issues with the Cambodian navy. Some of the staff will come ashore and enjoy the hospitality of the Cambodian people, as happened with previous ship visits.

So that’s a continuing program, something that’s been very successful from my point of view. It’s great for our military members, our sailors and naval officers to be exposed to Cambodia. And when they come they always try to do something good. They bring some medical teams, they do some projects with the local people, provide health care, rebuild schools, those kinds of things. They always enjoy themselves when they come here.

Q. Is the US interested in having a military base in Cambodia?

A. I can tell you very definitively that we are not looking for a base in Cambodia. Our goal in having relations between our military and the Cambodian military is to help the Cambodian military become more capable and more professional and therefore a better partner for us in activities that are of interests to both of us.

For example, the Cambodian government has developed an interest in peacekeeping. Cambodian forces are in the process of training to become peacekeepers, and in 2010 Cambodia will host, for the first time ever, a big global peacekeeping exercise here in Cambodia.

More than 24 countries have already expressed their intention to participate in this exercise. So countries that supply peacekeeping forces get together, they train together, they learn how to operate together. This helps build the global peacekeeping infrastructure. And to me this is a wonderful kind of engagement for Cambodia to have in the world. Cambodia was once the recipient of peacekeeping operations in the ‘90s [and] now is stable and prosperous and is looking to go out and provide that kind of peacekeeping service to other countries that are in tougher situations.