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Expert Predicts Warmer Future US-Cambodia Ties

King Sihamoni of Cambodia diplomatic papers from newly appointed US Ambassador Carol Rodley, 2009.
King Sihamoni of Cambodia diplomatic papers from newly appointed US Ambassador Carol Rodley, 2009.

With 60 years of diplomatic relations behind them, Cambodia and the US are likely to experience stronger ties, as they move toward more economic engagement, a lecturer told students and others on Thursday.

Speaking at a symposium organized by the US Embassy, Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said US-Cambodian issues were likely to shift away from ideology and politics and more toward economics.

“I hope for the next 60 years, it is more on an economic-oriented approach and economic interdependency,” he said.

Chheang Vannarith was among a number of experts, historians and former diplomats who discussed the ongoing relationship between the two countries, one that has not always been smooth. The US only recently restarted direct aid to Cambodia, following a withdrawal after the 1997 coup.

The new relationship will be characterized by “people to people” and “business to business” relationships, as more US investors look to Cambodia, he said.

He also added that China's relationship with Cambodia was not likely to hurt the US here, as as interdependent relationship between the two giants was ongoing.

Chheang Vannarith spoke to an audience that included many students, whose views on his talk varied.

Ly Sreyrath, a 24-year-old student of international studies at the Royal Phnom Penh University, said the next 60 years were bound to be better, especially with the increasing economic relationship between the two.

However, Ngol Kean, 23, and also a student of international studies at the university, said he was “worried” about the relationship.

“The economic and military influences of China have been expanding in the last century,” he said. “The US seems to think that Cambodia has more political interest [for it] than economic.”

“The major US companies will not have a presence in direct investment in Cambodia,” he said.