U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh
News conference, October 15, 2020
AMBASSADOR MURPHY: Let me start with two points.
First, we want to express our condolences to all Cambodians who are coping with current flooding in the country. We are watching the developments, we are quite concerned, and we are deeply sympathetic for the loss of life, livelihoods, and homes. We want to be a good, helpful partner, and if Cambodia finds itself in need of international help, the United States is listening.
Secondly, this month I’m celebrating my one-year anniversary of being U.S. Ambassador in Cambodia, and it’s been a terrific year. The U.S. Embassy has been working hard on building our relationship, and strengthening the many aspects of our cooperation, including helping Cambodia respond to the global pandemic. We think we have a lot of success to show for those efforts.
This year we are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. This has been an opportunity to focus on strong areas of collaboration, cooperation, and partnership. It’s been a delight and a pleasure to do this because we have many partners throughout Cambodia: in government, in civil society, among youth, with many institutions – academic centers of learning, and beyond.
This month, October, we are focusing on law enforcement cooperation. This is a quiet, unheralded area of cooperation that doesn’t always get a lot of attention, but we have a lot of success to show for it. We have law enforcement agencies from the United States who work here in Cambodia with their counterparts to help Cambodia become a safer, healthier, more prosperous, well-developed country. Of course, the United States benefits from this kind of cooperation as well.
Here are some of our objectives with our law enforcement cooperation:
- We want to counter and dismantle transnational criminal networks. These exist around the world and here in Cambodia. We want to stop criminal networks from making inroads into Cambodia.
- We want to counter trafficking of persons, and trafficking of wildlife.
- We want to do everything possible to protect children.
- We also want to contribute to non-proliferation efforts. There are countries around the world that sponsor proliferation of weapons, and we want to cooperate with Cambodia to do everything we can to stop that.
- We also want to protect Cambodia’s cultural heritage. In the past there has been looting and theft of many artifacts from Cambodia, and we work to reverse that.
These areas that are so important to both our peoples, and we have had a lot of success over the last year:
- We worked with Cambodian Customs to seize a massive shipment of endangered pangolin scales. This is the spiny anteater-type animal that is heavily trafficked, for medicinal purposes,
- and it’s highly endangered. With cooperation from the United States, Cambodia was able to stop a shipment from Nigeria. It’s a great success story.
- We’ve had child predators who were stopped from entering Cambodia or identified and located here and returned to the United States to face justice.
- Over the past year, our law enforcement agencies in the United States have seized artifacts and we have been able to return them to Cambodia, two in particular that are now with the National Museum. I have been there to celebrate their return with the Minister of Culture, and we’re very proud of our success there.
- It’s important to note that when we talk about countering criminal syndicates, one of the areas where they operate is in illicit narcotics. We work here also to stop the flow of illegal drugs. Based on information we were able to provide, Cambodian authorities recently seized shipments of drugs and uncovered an illegal laboratory that was producing synthetic drugs here in Cambodia.
These are the kind of the successes that we have seen. As I said, sometimes it’s quiet, behind the scenes, sometimes it’s known publicly, but it’s very important fundamentally for the safety and health and prosperity of Cambodian people.
Another example I want to share with you. It’s not just pure law enforcement agencies, but our U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, has helped to train forest rangers here in Cambodia. As an indication of success training several hundred rangers, there have been seizures of illegal equipment used in protected area, like snares and chainsaws, and there have been over 60 arrests and the release of several dozen endangered wildlife species. We are very proud of that and I think Cambodians should be proud of that success.
I hope that provides some insight into why we are highlighting law enforcement cooperation this month. It’s an important part of our bilateral relationship. Thank you.