March 25, 2016
His Excellency General Meas Sophea, Major General McCaffrey, senior leaders of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, members of the international military attaché corps, and our other distinguished visitors present, good morning.
It is an honor to be here today to witness in person the success of Angkor Sentinel, one of the key annual events in the military relationship between Cambodia and the United States.
The men and women of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the United States Army together on the field before me are an inspiring sight. I am very proud that Angkor Sentinel has brought our two militaries together here to improve humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
English and Khmer are very different languages, but I am struck by one interesting similarity between them. In English, just as in Khmer, when we talk about people in the military, we do not say that they “work” (twergah in Khmer) in the military; we say that they “serve” (bomral in Khmer) their countries in the military.
I’m not a linguist, but it seems to me that both English and Khmer recognize that the military has a special and very important role in which obligations and duties to the country and its citizens come first. This similarity in our languages also reflects the shared perspective that has made Angkor Sentinel such a success. We recognize that the men and women of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces have again and again demonstrated their commitment to serve. When storms or floods have affected Cambodia, service members have responded.
They have filled sandbags to contain floodwaters and prevent damage, assisted in rebuilding homes that were destroyed, and arrived in boats to help people in distress. The Cambodian military is a critical government asset in providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
I would also like to recognize another very important accomplishment by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. Just a few weeks ago, I attended a very impressive ceremony at the Peace Palace celebrating ten years of Cambodia’s peacekeeping achievements.
Over the last ten years, Cambodian forces have served with distinction in difficult places like South Sudan, Chad, Mali, and Lebanon. This has taken commitment, dedication, and professionalism by both Cambodia’s military leadership and the forces themselves. I’m proud that the United States has been able to support Cambodia in this important task.
As you all know, this is the seventh year of the Angkor Sentinel exercise. It has grown more sophisticated over the years as the militaries from our two countries have gotten to know each other better. The United States has benefitted greatly from this exercise, and we hope that the collaboration between the Royal Cambodian Armed forces and the U.S. Army Pacific—and really with all branches of the U.S. military—will continue and expand.
From a broader perspective, the United States and Cambodia face many shared challenges including increasingly unpredictable and destructive weather patterns, violent extremism, emerging diseases, and regional conflicts, to name just a few. We have learned over the years that these problems are best solved through dialogue and cooperation, including exercises like Angkor Sentinel.
The United States hopes to continue to strengthen cooperation with our Royal Cambodian Armed Forces partners through cooperative military activities like Angkor Sentinel. We also hope to include other regional military partners in these activities, when appropriate. Better, broader cooperation among partners who know each other and work well together is what events like Angkor Sentinel aim to develop. I feel confident that it has taken place here during the exercise.
I would like to close by expressing my congratulations to the Cambodian and American participants for their effort in the last two weeks and for their professional dedication to serving their nations and citizens. I wish everyone safe travels back to their homes and success in their future endeavors. Thank you very much.