As Cambodia prepares for an official visit from US Secretary of State John Kerry next week, the country’s US ambassador says it would consider joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Ambassador Chum Bunrong told VOA Khmer in an exclusive interview that Kerry will be in Cambodia to discuss an upcoming US-Asean meeting, to be held next month in California, but the two sides will also talk trade, and that means discussing the benefits of joining the TPP, a major trade pact. “The TPP would ensure that trade relations between our two countries grows further,” he said.
But that would have to benefit the region as a whole, he added. “In Asean we protect each other’s interests,” the ambassador said. “We always find interest for our partners. Cambodia is also ready to serve the interests.”
Kerry will also speak about counter-terrorism, the ambassador said. “We have good prevention against terrorism,” he said. “Even Cambodian Muslims help us prevent terrorism.”
Rights advocates say they want Kerry to raise the issue of Cambodia’s worsening human rights environment, a topic Chum Bunrong said would be welcome.
“We are generally open to discussion with the US on every issue,” he said. However, he added, there should not be any “misunderstanding” over opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is in exile abroad and facing jail time for a criminal defamation suit, brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, while being investigated for another, brought by National Assembly President Heng Samrin.
Chum Bunrong said he had already sent a letter to 16 congressmen who wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen about the issue. “There is no more doubt they have accepted our explanation.”