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Prime Minister Hun Manet’s Strategic Visit to France and Attendance at the Davos World Economic Forum

by Surya Narayan
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Prime Minister Hun Manet of Cambodia was greeted with enthusiasm by the Cambodian diaspora in France during his transit enroute to the 54th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The forum runs until January 19, marking a significant appearance for the Prime Minister on a global stage.

Post the Davos event, Mr. Hun Manet will return to France for his first official visit as Prime Minister on January 18 and 19, following an invitation from French President Emmanuel Macron. This visit is poised to fortify the historical ties between Cambodia and France, a relationship initiated by King Sisowath and further developed by Late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, King Norodom Sihamoni, and former Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Arriving in Paris after a 17-hour journey on a special Cambodian government jet, Prime Minister Hun Manet and his wife, Pech Chanmony, were warmly welcomed by the Cambodian diaspora from across Europe. Expressing gratitude, Mr. Hun Manet said, “I would like to thank all the Cambodian people and students living in Europe for your warm and cordial welcome to me and my wife, as well as the Government delegation for our official visit to France and Switzerland.”

Cambodia’s historical connection with France dates back to King Sisowath’s official visit in 1906. Notably, in the previous year, King Norodom Sihamoni had visited France, where he engaged with President Macron, culminating in France’s commitment to support Cambodia’s cultural and health sectors.

Former Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to France in December 2022 solidified the nations’ relationship. Hun Sen stated his direct channels of communication with President Macron, emphasizing the close ties.

Government Spokesman Pen Bona outlined Mr. Hun Manet’s itinerary, which includes meetings with the Cambodian community in Europe and chairing the European-Cambodian Business Forum. Additionally, Mr. Hun Manet will engage in official talks with Macron at the Palais de l’Élysée, aiming to elevate bilateral relations and cooperate on global challenges while upholding a rule-based international order.

Mr. Hun Manet will also meet with Gérard Larcher, President of the Senate, Yael Braun-Pivet, President of the National Assembly, and Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux, President of Alliance des Patronats Francophones.

Accompanying Mr. Hun Manet are several key government officials and business leaders, symbolizing the importance of this visit in enhancing Cambodia’s international relations and economic opportunities.

Cambodian Ambassador to France, Luy David, highlighted the enthusiastic reception by thousands of Cambodians residing in France and other European countries, reflecting their respect for Prime Minister Hun Manet’s leadership and the progress he has brought to Cambodia.

During his European tour, Prime Minister Hun Manet aims to update the Cambodian diaspora on the country’s current state of peace and development. He noted on social media, “The goal of meeting with our citizens is to get to know them and show the spirit of ‘we are one Khmer family’, especially it’s a time for me to update them on the situation of peace, development and happiness in Cambodia.”

The visit underscores the importance of strengthening ties with France and attracting investment to enhance Cambodia’s development. “I thank all compatriots for spending their time, effort, and money to travel from near and far for this gathering. This provides closeness and support for the leaders of the government in our mission for the sake of the nation and the people,” Manet stated.

The visit marks a significant milestone in Hun Manet’s leadership, being his first trip to Europe as Prime Minister. The discussions with President Macron will focus on enhancing bilateral relations, addressing global issues, and advocating for a rules-based international order. A press statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation highlighted the auspicious opportunity this meeting presents for both governments to reaffirm their commitment to elevating their relations to new heights.

The itinerary also includes Manet’s participation in the Europe-Cambodia Business Forum, organized by the French Business Association, where he will meet several French corporate leaders. His engagements with French Senate President Gerard Larcher, National Assembly President Yael Braun-Pivet, La Francophonie Secretary-General Louise Mushikiwabo, and Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux of the Alliance des Patronats Francophones underscore the depth of his diplomatic agenda.

Upon arrival, Manet received a heartwarming reception from the Cambodian diaspora, an essential aspect of his visit. Cambodian Ambassador to France, Luy David, emphasized the significance of this support, noting that Manet is the first foreign leader to officially visit France in 2024.

In Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, Prime Minister Hun Manet will discuss global concerns, focusing on restoring faith in the global system and exploring win-win approaches for peaceful engagement. He is scheduled to meet with Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the OECD, and leaders of global companies, seeking to draw investments to Cambodia.

The warm reception from Cambodians residing in Europe, akin to the support given to former Prime Minister Hun Sen, highlights the diaspora’s enduring connection and respect for their homeland’s leadership. This visit by Prime Minister Hun Manet not only cements the longstanding Cambodia-France relationship but also opens new avenues for collaboration and mutual growth, reinforcing Cambodia’s position on the international stage.

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