I would like to take a moment to offer my heartfelt condolences to His Majesty King Sihamoni, Her Majesty Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, the entire Royal Family, and the Cambodian people for the loss of His Majesty King Father Norodom Sihanouk. Over the past week, I have followed the procession and ceremonies to honor the King Father, and I was very moved by the repatriation ceremony for his remains that I attended last week. Many of my Cambodian colleagues at the Embassy requested time off to take part in joining the hundreds of thousands of people who lined the streets to welcome the King Father home for the final time, and I am glad the Embassy was able to support their requests.
On Monday, I visited the Royal Palace to pay my respects to His Majesty the King Father. As we drove into the palace, it was humbling to see firsthand the thousands of Cambodians who had traveled from all over the country to pay their respects to their former King. I believe His Majesty would be deeply moved by the love and reverence the country is showing at this time. I had the opportunity to speak with the King’s brother, His Royal Highness Samdech Norodom Sirivudh, and to convey condolences on behalf of the U.S. government. I signed the condolence book and contemplated the King Father’s influential role in Cambodia for over six decades.
I also spoke with Cambodian Television Network (CTN) on Monday, as part of its series of interviews with foreign diplomats. I want all Cambodians to know that the United States is thinking of you at this time.
Finally, I would like to share with you this picture of His Majesty King Father Norodom Sihanouk with President Ronald Reagan, which is a testament to the long friendship between our two countries. Thanks go to the Documentation Center of Cambodia for sending us the photo, so that we could share it with all of you.
Welcome to my first blog! Today I presented my credentials to His Majesty, the King of Cambodia. Although I arrived in Cambodia more than six weeks ago, it was not until King Sihamoni accepted my Letter of Credential from President Obama that I officially became the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia. The King’s acceptance of my credentials officially starts my time as U.S. Ambassador, and to mark this occasion, the Royal Palace held a credentialing ceremony in my honor. It was a beautiful ceremony and I enjoyed it immensely. The King and I had the opportunity to talk about U.S.-Cambodian relations. I found His Majesty not only a gracious host, but also very well informed on our relations. He is a man who understands how we can enhance and expand this relationship.
In the spirit of recognizing how technological progress will bring the U.S. and Cambodia together, I decided to deviate a little from the typical gift a U.S. Ambassador would give on such an occasion. So instead of giving him a book on American society, I presented His Majesty with the modern equivalent – a Kindle Fire – one of the many high-tech products that are transforming the way Americans read.
This afternoon when I walked through the halls on the way to meet the King, I couldn’t help but think about my personal journey as a diplomat, and what led me here. I had an opportunity to reflect on why I am fortunate to be the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia.
During my short time in Cambodia, I have met many Cambodians at informal and unofficial meetings. These meetings have confirmed everything I have learned during my time studying the Cambodian culture and Khmer language. Cambodia is a country blessed with a rich culture. Cambodians are an open and welcoming people that have made my family and I feel right at home.
As the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, my number one goal is to foster a more effective relationship between the U.S. and Cambodian citizens. I hope to do this by creating an environment that encourages everyone in the community to participate. I have prepared a great deal for my tenure as the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, studying Khmer and learning about Cambodian history and traditions, but there is always much more to learn. And, even as there is much more to learn, there is even more that we can accomplish as a team that engages the entire community in dialogues and discussions. It is only through effective partnering with everyone – Cambodians, NGOs, and civil society organizations – that we will be able to progress forward in achieving this goal.
While the credentialing ceremony was a very formal process and one I enjoyed, I must admit that I am an Ambassador who also likes to take a modern approach to diplomacy through technology. We grow closer as nations when our people are able to exchange ideas. I promise that I will do this with you in a number of ways. I will ask you to write me (emails or letters), I will take your questions in weekly “Ask the U.S. Ambassador” columns, and I will visit you in your homes and offices. Tell me what you think and I will listen. I value your opinions and as the U.S. Ambassador my priority is not protocol but people.
This is my first blog posting and I will have many more in the future. The U.S. and Cambodia share a long history and our relations (diplomatic, economic, and cultural) continue to grow. I consider it my primary goal to ensure that we continue this positive trend. I want Cambodia to know that the U.S. Ambassador is interested in the opinions and ideas of the entire community – Cambodians, NGOs and civil society organizations. Please do not be shy. I am interested in what you think. It is an honor to serve as U.S. Ambassador and today’s credentialing ceremony confirmed this. My family and I are truly happy to be here in Cambodia and I will make every effort to not just learn more about Cambodia, but to meet with, listen to, and learn from the people in Cambodia.
Let’s talk more soon.