Cablegate: Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of U.S. - Cambodia


DE RUEHPF #0142/01 0570938
R 260938Z FEB 10




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: July 2010 marks the 60th Anniversary of diplomatic
relations between the United States and Cambodia, and the Embassy
plans to mark this event with a week of commemorative activities
designed to highlight the development of bilateral relations during
that period and our commitment to Cambodia for the future. Embassy
seeks Department support and consideration of high-level visits to
make the commemoration a success; see action request in paragraph 7.

2. Embassy Phnom Penh has planned an ambitious series of programs
designed to highlight our contributions to the development of
Cambodia over the past sixty years. A week of events beginning July
18 is expected to include the signing of bilateral agreements in the
health, education, food security and trade sectors, concerts by the
MARFORPAC Marine Band and the rock band Dengue Fever (led by a
Cambodian vocalist), and an academic symposium with participation of
distinguished scholars from government and academia, including
former U.S. Ambassadors to Cambodia. A gala dinner is also planned
as well as a series of cultural events which highlight the
contribution of Cambodian-Americans to the arts, including a film
festival, art exhibit and dance recital produced by a
Cambodian-American choreographer. A joint 60th Anniversary
commission has approved a logo which will be used to brand the
celebration. The Royal Government of Cambodia also plans to issue a
special postage stamp to commemorate it.

3. This series of commemorative events will provide the United
States with an ideal opportunity to reinforce the Secretary's
message of U.S. engagement in Southeast Asia and our commitment to
the responsible development of Cambodia. The timing is particularly
fortuitous in that the commemoration will happen during the same
time frame as two major events that reflect our broadening military
relationship: the visit by the hospital ship USS Mercy to provide
treatment to many thousands of rural Cambodians through its medical
humanitarian mission (June 15-28); and the Global Peacekeeping
Operations Initiative (GPOI)Capstone exercise, a large multinational
military exercise involving several thousand troops from both
countries as well as participants from 22 other nations (July

4. Especially considering the tragedy of Cambodian history, these
60th Anniversary events will help cement our long term commitment to
Cambodia and highlight the concrete benefits of that commitment and
cooperation. Much of the public diplomacy planned for the
anniversary will focus on the historical investment the U.S. made in
the country's infrastructure and human capital since the early
1950s. Several of the events are slated to take place in buildings
that were originally constructed with U.S. assistance during that
period -- a meaningful way to emphasize to the younger generation
that our presence in and commitment to Cambodia is not a fleeting

5. Opinion polls repeatedly reflect the overwhelmingly positive
opinion of Cambodians towards the United States; roughly 85% of the
population has a positive view of the U.S. and its ideals. The
planned commemorative events will show that we do not take this
reaction for granted and that our commitment to Cambodia is not
eclipsed by the growing influence of China, whose recent 50th
anniversary celebration launched a series of high level visitors
from Beijing. Our planning is designed to enhance all sectors of
our cooperation with Cambodia and to target all elements of
Cambodian society in the process. As such we believe it will lay
the groundwork for strong future cooperation.

6. Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and the Ambassador are personally
engaged in the planning front, and have formed a joint commission of
selected Embassy staff and representatives from several Cambodian
ministries. Last fall, Hor Namhong invited the Secretary to visit
Cambodia to commemorate the anniversary, and we would of course
welcome the Secretary's participation -- and that of other senior
administration officials as well -- during this time frame. A
substantive schedule for such a visit could include the signing of
several bilateral agreements, a gala dinner possibly hosted at the
Royal Palace (with the attendant historical context of the
well-known 1967 visit of Jacqueline Kennedy hosted by then Prince
Sihanouk), a speech to the youth of Cambodia focusing on the future,
and a key role in whichever of the other ongoing commemorative
events are appropriate. The undeniable message to the world would
be a clear commitment of the United States to the region, and every
aspect of the 60th Anniversary events that would form the backdrop
of the visit would underscore that message with visual acuity.

7. As existing post public diplomacy funds are not sufficient for
the estimated $130,000 budget required for this commemoration, post
seeks Department funding to support the initiative. We will of
course approach U.S. companies in the private sector for assistance,
but do not expect a significant response from the limited pool of
businesses active in Cambodia. For its part, the Royal Government
of Cambodia has offered in-kind contributions to support the
celebration including prominent venues for many of the events, and
it remains actively involved in coordinating the required

permissions and venues to make it happen. Post seeks an early
indication of Department's support in order to proceed with the
planning and commitments necessary to make this event a reality.


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