Many of you have probably heard about Pacific Partnership through Princess Norodom Soma’s blog, but I’d like to personally further explain Pacific Partnership’s importance and what it has specifically done for Cambodia. Pacific Partnership is a huge humanitarian and civic assistance mission that provides medical services and help in environmental sustainability to people across the Asia-Pacific region. This year, over 1,200 international personnel from the USNS Mercy and 200 Cambodians participated in the mission.
The efforts and tenacity of the Pacific Partnership team took on a particular significance to me when I visited the Preah Ket Melea Hospital in Phnom Penh on Thursday, August 9th. A couple of days prior to my arrival, USNS Mercy medical practitioners had been providing delicate treatments to patients, who I had the opportunity to meet. In particular, I met 18 patients who along with their families were very grateful for the free treatment. I met one soldier whose mangled arm had been left untreated for two years due to a lack of money, and it was so heartwarming to see him smiling after his successful surgery. Many of these patients were young children, and as a father, I completely understood the looks of relief that graced their parents’ faces as the doctors examined them.
On Saturday, August 11th, I had the honor to close Pacific Partnership in Sihanoukville during a ceremony to recognize the program’s achievements. Through the cooperation between our U.S. naval civil engineers and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), I was elated to announce the completion of three new maternity wards in Takeo, Kampot, and Sihanoukville, and that over 14,000 Cambodians received free medical care. I also joined many of our partner NGOs, including Latter Day Saints Charities, Operation Smile, Project Handclasp, Project Hope, UCSD Pre-Dental Society, World Vets, Global Grins, East Meets West, Hope Worldwide, Rotary Club, and M’lop Tapang, Population Services International, Reproductive Health Association in Cambodia, University Research Company, New Hope for Cambodian Children, and Partners in Compassion to donate 90 pallets of toys, school supplies, and other goods to benefit orphanages and non-governmental organizations throughout Cambodia.
Saturday proved to be an action-packed and productive day. I joined Australian Ambassador Penny Richards and Cambodian Minister of National Defense Tea Banh to inaugurate the National Committee for Maritime Security Tactical Command Headquarters at Ream Naval Base. I was quite impressed with the facility’s cutting edge design and functionality that will further enhance Cambodia’s capacity to protect its people and its maritime security leadership in the Asia Pacific region. Although not formally a part of Pacific Partnership, the establishment of this tactical operations center represents a significant development in Cambodia’s maritime security strategy and crisis preparedness, and I am pleased that the United States was a part and will continue to be a part of this process in promoting a continued sense of stability for Cambodian livelihoods.
Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Flynn Fuller also represented the United States at a special reception with the RCAF onboard the USNS Mercy on Friday, August 3. He also donated 75 pallets of medical equipment on behalf of the U.S. Navy to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defense on Monday, August 13. The Ministry of Health’s supply warehouse now has stocks of sponges, bandages, tubes, needles, blades, and catheters to provide the necessary medical treatment to the Cambodian people.
Beyond being an aid mission to Cambodians, Pacific Partnership represents a cultural exchange of ideas. Doctors and other healthcare practitioners from the Mercy learned so much from their counterparts. This program is a great opportunity to not only provide medical help to Cambodians, but to also promote the friendship between the U.S. and Cambodia.
If you’d like to learn more about Pacific Partnership 2012, please check out the following Cambodian bloggers who toured the USNS Mercy and experienced Pacific Partnership 2012 firsthand: