Remarks by Colonel Craig Tippins at the Gulf of Thailand Initiative Commanders Conference Opening Ceremony

Siem Reap
July 14, 2015

To begin this morning, I would like to extend my respect and gratitude to His Excellency Admiral Tea Vinh and other distinguished representatives from Cambodia’s National Committee for Maritime Security.  I thank you all for generously agreeing to hold this event in your country.   Hosting this Commanders Conference in Siem Reap will provide us all with the opportunity to visit Angkor Wat, a world-renowned site of not only great historical importance, but also incredible beauty.  I am sure I speak for our esteemed colleagues from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia when I say how privileged we feel that you are sharing Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage with us all.

Next, I would also like to thank our colleagues from the region for attending: Major General Ngo Ngoc Thu from Vietnam, Police Major General Pragit from Thailand, First Admiral Maritime Christopher from Malaysia, First Admiral Maritime Royani from Indonesia, and Captain Andrew Dakin from Australia.  Your presence is essential to making this event a success and to reaching our goal of improving maritime security.

As I look out at the representatives of many different nations in the audience today, and as I think about the considerable challenges we collectively face in the maritime security of this region, I suggest we draw inspiration from the wonder of Angkor Wat.  Those who have visited the temple are amazed at the ingenuity and creativity that went into building the vast, extraordinary structures that the United Nations recognizes as a World Heritage Site.  However, as you gaze upon these ancient structures, I urge you to remember that their sublime artistry and monumental scale are the products of human minds, hearts, and hands.

The Cambodians of long ago triumphed in the creation of Angkor Wat by coordinating the intellect and effort of many peoples; first by envisioning a grand design and then realizing it with the placement of one stone after another.  This week, I ask that you remember that great achievements are done in this manner, by taking small steps, one piece at a time, to get a big job done.  I hope that we may be able to apply this example from ancient Cambodia to the significant work that lies ahead.

As leaders in the field of international maritime security, I know you all have a keen understanding of the complexity we face as we move to establish a roadmap for maritime security.   Keep in mind, however, that the potential benefits and shared opportunities are greater than any individual difficulties we may face in formulating solutions.

We cannot possibly succeed without innovation and extraordinary international cooperation.  How worthwhile is it, for example, to work together to prevent illegal drugs from reaching our hometowns?  How much effort does preserving the marine habitat, which employs and feeds our people, deserve?  How valuable is the freedom of navigation that supports our economy and distributes benefits of international trade among our countries?

Stopping transnational crime, protecting the national resources that provide the livelihood of millions of our citizens, and encouraging international trade are just three examples of the vital responsibilities we have to our nations.  As challenging as these issues appear, this event is a positive and encouraging step toward protecting the environment and guaranteeing free trade while reducing the threat of transnational crime.

In closing, on behalf of the United States, let me express my great pride in co-hosting this Commanders Conference with the Royal Government of Cambodia, and in working together to make this important event possible.  Let me offer my personal best wishes to the delegates and for a productive meeting in support of international maritime security cooperation.

Thank you.