Hun Sen to Hold Bilateral Talks With Obama
By | November 11, 2012

Prime Minister Hun Sen will hold bilateral talks with U.S. President Barack Obama when the newly re-elected American leader visits Phnom Penh during this month’s East Asia and Asean Summits.

Mr. Hun Sen announced the bilateral meeting in a letter to Mr. Obama on Wednesday congratulating him on winning the presidential election. Mr. Obama, who is expected to be in Phnom Penh between November 18 and 20, will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cambodia.

Also in his letter to Mr. Obama, Mr. Hun Sen praised what he said was increasing cooperation between Washington and Phnom Penh.

“Under your wise leadership, the bond of friendship between our peoples as well as the relations and cooperation between our two nations have been strengthened for mutual interests,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote.

“I hope that our bilateral ties will be further enhanced during your second term of office given the growing cooperation in various fields that we have at present.”

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong confirmed that Mr. Hun Sen will hold one-on-one talks with the U.S. president.

“On the sidelines of the summit, yes, there will be a bilateral talk between Mr. Hun Sen and President Barack Obama,” Mr. Kuong said, though he had no information yet on what the two would discuss.

“As planned, the U.S. president will come to Phnom Penh to attend the Asean and East Asia summits,” Mr. Hun Sen said in a speech at the National Institute of Education.

“We hope that the relationship between the United States of America with Cambodia will continue to be strengthened,” he said, adding that Mr. Obama had done a good job at improving relations with Asean, especially because the U.S. president has attended many regional meetings.

Mr. Obama attended an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting held in Singapore in 2009, the East Asia summit hosted in Bali in 2011, and the 2010 meeting between the U.S. and Asean held in New York.

Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the talks between Mr. Obama and Mr. Hun Sen would likely focus on the South China Sea issue, or reform in Burma.

Cambodia’s human rights record and electoral reform will likely not be part of the discussions, Mr. Mong Hay said.

“Perhaps he will say that he will like to see more democracy,” he said. “Internal issues like Sam Rainsy Party issues, I don’t think he will touch upon [them],” Mr. Mong Hay said.

Earlier this month, Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said that the U.S. was concerned about the Cambodian government’s treatment of opposition officials, civic organizations, and individuals.

Mr. Campbell did not say whether Mr. Obama would raise those issues during his visit to Phnom Penh.

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy wrote in his own congratulatory letter to Mr. Obama that he hoped the U.S. president would use his forthcoming visit to promote true democracy in Cambodia.

“I hope and trust that you will use your visit to Cambodia this month to help Cambodians enjoy the genuine democratic rights that Americans have exercised,” the letter said.

Mr. Rainsy had earlier called on Mr. Obama to boycott the Phnom Penh meeting, saying his presence would legitimize unfair elections in Cambodia.

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)

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