Prime Minister Gillard visited the Royal Palace to express her condolences to Her Majesty the Queen Mother Norodom Monineath and His Majesty the King Norodom Sihamoni upon the death of His Majesty the King Father Norodom Sihanouk. The King Father was a towering figure in Cambodian history: he oversaw Cambodia’s independence and its development as a modern state. He played a significant role in global and regional relations. He was integral to the negotiation of the Paris Peace Accords signed in 1991.
Australia’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gareth Evans, worked closely with the King Father and other Cambodian leaders to draft the Accords. Australian General John Sanderson led the military component of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), which oversaw the election of a new National Assembly in 1993 and the promulgation of Cambodia’s current constitution. Since then Australia has assisted Cambodia’s development in many fields.
Prime Minister Gillard also attended the Seventh East Asia Summit (EAS) Leaders’ Meeting chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The EAS is the premier body bringing together the ten member states of ASEAN and its eight key dialogue partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States of America) to discuss the political and security issues facing our region, as well as advancing practical initiatives. Cambodia and Australia can work together in the EAS to create a prosperous and stable region.
Leaders discussed maritime security, encouraging ASEAN members and China to develop a Code of Conduct for Parties in the South China Sea and emphasising the need for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions on peaceful use of nuclear power. They also called for further cooperation on finance, education, environment, energy, disaster management and pandemic diseases.
Australia was especially pleased that the Leaders adopted a declaration calling for intensified work to stop the spread of drug resistant malaria. We hope this initiative will save many lives in Cambodia and neighbouring countries.
Australia’s participation in the EAS illustrates our long standing, close relations with ASEAN. Australia became ASEAN’s first dialogue partner in 1974. We have extensive trade, people-to-people and development cooperation links with ASEAN.
Australia’s role in the EAS also reflects our strong bilateral relations with each of the ASEAN member states. Australia is the third largest bilateral aid donor to Cambodia. This aid is making a real difference to the lives of poor Cambodians. All of our development assistance is provided in the form of grants which do not have to be repaid by the Cambodian government. We work in health, agriculture, infrastructure and law and justice.Australia is the second largest donor to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
Australia and Cambodia cooperate in areas such as de-mining and assisting people with disabilities. Through our scholarship and volunteer programs we build the capacity of Cambodians and strengthen people-to-people ties.
Our two countries are forging partnerships in the fields of defence and transnational crime. We work together to stop people trafficking and smuggling, to counter terrorists and to fight illicit drug smuggling and children’s sexual exploitation.
With so many shared national interests, it is not surprising that Australia and Cambodia enjoy an enduring partnership.
Penny Richards is currently the Australian Ambassador to Cambodia