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Cablegate: Congressman Faleomavaega Promotes Stronger Ties,

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PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #1454/01 3340622
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 300622Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9147
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 001454

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/EX, EAP/MLS, AND H
STATE PLEASE PASS TO PEACE CORPS
LABOR FOR ILAB--LI AND PELTZER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SOCI ECON EAGR ELAB CB
SUBJECT: CONGRESSMAN FALEOMAVAEGA PROMOTES STRONGER TIES,
EDUCATIONAL AID


1. Summary. Building stronger relations through educational,
economic, and agricultural cooperation were key themes of
Congressman Eni Faleomavaega's visit to Cambodia from November 22 to
24. During an informal dinner, Congressman Faleomavaega, Delegate
from American Samoa and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia,
the Pacific and the Global Environment, told Ministry of Foreign
Affairs official Ouch Borith that he supported more U.S.
scholarships for Cambodians and an increased American role in
Cambodian education. In a very cordial meeting, Commerce Minister
Cham Prasidh and Chairman Faleomavaega talked about the economic
challenges common to American Samoa and Cambodia as small geographic
areas, Cambodia's recovery from its tragic past, directions for
Cambodia's economic development, and compared cultural notes. End
Summary.

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Faleomavaega: Education, Agriculture as Tools for Stronger
Relations
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2. Expressing his desire for relations between the U.S. and
Cambodia to become "stronger," Chairman Faleomavaega focused on
potential ways to improve relations with Cambodia during an informal
dinner with Ouch Borith, Secretary of State at the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. Borith enthusiastically agreed with Faleomavaega's
suggestion of expanding educational opportunities in the U.S. for
Cambodian students. Borith noted that many Cambodian students have
difficulty studying in the U.S. due to student visa denials and the
high cost of American education. Congressman Faleomavaega offered
to look at ways to create educational opportunities for Cambodian
students, including: using a burden-sharing arrangement to jointly
establish U.S.-Cambodian government scholarships for study in the
U.S.; increasing Peace Corps presence in Cambodia; and offering
English training via television with the assistance of University of
California educators. Chairman Faleomavaega also suggested the two
countries review ways to apply American agricultural expertise to
Cambodia, prompting Borith to suggest that organic farming may be a
niche that Cambodia could develop in the regionally competitive
agriculture industry.

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Commerce Minister: Cambodia Moving Beyond Its Tragic Past
--------------------------------------------- ----------

3. During his meeting with Chairman Faleomavaega, Commerce Minister
Cham Prasidh emphasized Cambodia's efforts to move beyond its
turbulent history, noting that Cambodians "had saluted six flags in
six decades." While the government is working hard to put the
country back on its feet, he said, it has been difficult as only 4.5
million people remained after the Khmer Rouge regime: Cham Prasidh
himself was one of only 64 intellectuals to survive in Cambodia.
The U.S. and Cambodia have had a long relationship, the Commerce
Minister noted, but the U.S. sometimes misunderstood Cambodia. He
lamented that Vietnam's assistance to Cambodia following the Khmer
Rouge regime branded the country communist. Had wealthier Thailand
come to help, Prasidh mused, Cambodia would not have had such a
negative label. However, he said, "When you are drowning, you don't
look to see what kind of hand is reaching to help you." Prasidh
noted with satisfaction that U.S.-Cambodian relations have grown
closer in recent years.

4. Turning to Cambodia's development progress and needs, the
Commerce Minister proudly briefed Congressman Faleomavaega on
Cambodia's groundbreaking labor programs, including garment factory
monitoring and the labor arbitration council, both of which were
created under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Labor and are
now funded by USAID and other donors. In agriculture, Prasidh noted
that while other developing countries are looking to genetically
modified crops, Cambodia wants to promote organic farming instead.


5. Education is also a priority, he asserted, and Cambodia is
investing in constructing many schools. However, he said, some
families are so poor that their children must work in the fields,
missing classes held during the day. If schools were electrified,
poor students could study at night when their work was completed.
Econoff described the recently announced DOL child labor grant and
its emphasis on reaching children working in subsistence
agriculture. The Commerce Minister also stated that he would
welcome an expansion of Peace Corps' presence in Cambodia and
favored efforts to build up Cambodia's education system rather than
relying on educating Cambodians overseas.

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Comment
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PHNOM PENH 00001454 002 OF 002


6. Chairman Faleomavaega's positive meetings with the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs' Ouch Borith and Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh,
as well as a memorable weekend viewing the Water Festival and Angkor
Wat, have begun a stronger relationship between one of the House's
few Asian-American members and Cambodia. Indeed, Congressman
Faleomavaega seemed truly disappointed to learn that Prasidh had
been unable to secure a meeting with him when he was last in
Washington, and promised not only to meet with Prasidh during his
next trip but also to learn about the proposed New Partnership for
Development Act on trade with least developed countries and to reach
out to Cambodian-American statesman Sichan Siv.

MUSSOMELI

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