Your Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni of the Kingdom of Cambodia; Prime Minister Hun Sen; President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin; First Vice-President of the Senate Say Chhum; Excellencies; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen. Chum-Reap-Suor and good evening.
Your Majesty; I want to begin by thanking you and the people of Cambodia for the very warm welcome to your beautiful country that we have received. On behalf of my wife Janine, and our delegation, I also want to thank you and everyone involved in the arrangements for our visit to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Your kind hospitality is very much appreciated.
May I also take this opportunity to express again formally, and in person, New Zealand’s condolences at the passing of your father, the King Father, His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk – the King who lies in the Diamond Urn. I would also ask that you pass on my best wishes, and the best wishes of the New Zealand people, to The Queen Mother.
Your Majesty: it is an honour to join with you at this State Banquet, to mark the warm relationship that exists between Cambodia and New Zealand. While this is not my first visit here, I understand I am the first New Zealand Governor-General to pay a State visit to Cambodia. This is a great privilege, and I am pleased to be able to continue a pattern of high level contacts between our two countries.
Cambodia and New Zealand enjoy a long-standing bilateral relationship. Our relationship rests on several pillars, including trade and development, support for civil society, participation in regional organisations, education and importantly people-to-people links.
New Zealand remains pleased with the role it has played assisting Cambodia’s ongoing development. The almost 100 New Zealand Defence Force personnel who served here 21 years ago as a part of United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was at the time our largest deployment of peacekeepers.
Since that time our partnership has expanded to include support for clearing mines and unexploded ordnance, providing scholarships, English language training for government officials, and assistance towards sustainable economic development in Cambodia, particularly in the rural sector through agri business and tourism projects. While the trade relationship between New Zealand and Cambodia is still relatively small, it has begun to flourish under the framework of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in 2010. On that point, I note that Cambodia successfully chaired ASEAN in 2012 – the second time it has led the Association.
New Zealand is also proud of its work to strengthen civil society in Cambodia and particularly the rehabilitation process through the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The Chambers work in bringing to justice those who caused great suffering during the tragic and dark times of the 1970s is an important part of reconciling the past. I was delighted to spend some time with my predecessor, former Governor-General the Hon Dame Silvia Cartwright, and her husband Peter. Dame Silvia has worked in Phnom Penh as one of the international judges appointed to the Chambers since 2006.
New Zealand has supported the ECCC since its establishment. During my visit to the Chambers yesterday, I was able to announce an additional financial contribution from New Zealand for this year. We hope the tribunal will continue to play an important role in Cambodia's rehabilitation process, and through its work assisting with strengthening the Cambodian legal system.
Your Majesty: New Zealand also values its close association with Cambodia through our shared membership of regional organisations. New Zealand has appreciated the chance to work constructively with Cambodia in forums such as ASEAN and the East Asia Summit.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Rt Hon John Key was delighted to make his first visit to the Kingdom of Cambodia last November for the East Asia Summit. It followed successful visits earlier in 2012 by New Zealand’s Trade Minister Hon Tim Groser and Foreign Minister Hon Murray McCully. These visits are an indication of New Zealand’s commitment to maintaining the momentum of interaction between our two countries, and to growing and building our bilateral relationship.
While trade, development and official contacts are important, the key to any relationship between nations lies in people-to-people contacts. People-to-people contact enable us to better understand each other’s history and culture, and help build trust, a fundamental ingredient in human dealings.
On this level, our countries have been blessed by the network of links between ordinary Cambodians and New Zealanders. More than 7,000 Cambodians have made their home in New Zealand over the last 20 years. They are a hardworking people who have added their cultural vibrancy to the texture of New Zealand’s society, culture and economy.
Many Cambodians have also studied in New Zealand and then returned home. They will have brought with them the skills and knowledge that enable them to play a key role in Cambodia’s now and in the future. I had great pleasure in meeting with our Cambodian alumni last night. They are not only making their mark in Cambodian society, they are also the best “ambassadors” New Zealand could ever wish for in promoting the ties between our two countries.
Your Majesty: I want to conclude by thanking you again for your warm welcome. The warmth of your welcome speaks of the ties of friendship between our two countries. We are very much looking forward to the rest of our visit and learning more of Cambodia’s aspirations for the future.
And finally, I would like to congratulate you on eight years of service as King of Cambodia, and wish you good health and prosperity.
I propose a toast to Your Majesty, Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia.