There have been “positive signs of recovery” in Cambodia and across the globe in 2022, with in-person events gathering steam, despite lingering Covid disruptions, fierce geopolitical struggles, and an overall rise in fuel and food prices, according to a senior foreign ministry official.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation secretary of state Nhim Khemara was speaking at the “Briefing Session on Economic Diplomacy, Investment, Trade and Tourism Environment in Cambodia” in Siem Reap town on September 2.

Khemara, who is also head of the Economic Diplomacy Coordinating Group (EDCG), was addressing some 100 participants from 19 Bangkok-based diplomatic missions – representing a total of 1.5 billion people – the Thai business community, families thereof, among others, who are on a Second Study Visit from September 1-4 in neighbouring Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

The Second Study Visit was initiated by the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok, in collaboration with the EDCG. It aims to showcase Cambodia’s vast potential as a business destination, with the adoption of a new Law on Investment, Economic Diplomacy Strategy (EDS) 2021-2023 and other related economic and tourism development strategies for post-pandemic recovery, the foreign ministry said.

It is also organised to promote Cambodia’s economic diplomacy vision and provide diplomats with insights into specific investment opportunities of interest to their respective countries. “This Second Study Visit offers an insightful experience to Cambodia … It would further strengthen connectivity between Cambodia and the rest of the world”.

Although the ministry did not disclose the 19 countries represented by the diplomatic missions, the embassy last month listed 17 of the expected foreign nations as Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Finland, Guatemala, Indonesia, Maldives, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand.

At the September 2 session, Khemara underscored the need for strong bilateral cooperation among countries to overcome the many enduring challenges confronting the world this year.

“2022 is yet another challenging year for us, marked by uncertainty, geopolitical struggles, rises in prices for oil and energy, and food shortages, prolonged travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the new variants, and more.

“Nevertheless, we also have seen promising signs of swift recoveries in many parts of the world, particularly in our region and of course in Cambodia. I am delighted that after more than two years, we can now organise a variety of in-person events, including this one in the majestic Siem Reap-Angkor,” he said.

Khemara shared that pressing challenges at the height of the pandemic prompted the foreign ministry to launch the three-year EDS to further promote international trade, foreign direct investment (FDI) and tourism, and increase the international prominence of Cambodian culture and identity.

“One of the major action plans that the EDCG focuses on is the organisation of business matching forums and study visits to Cambodia, in the hopes of enabling diplomats, businessmen, investors, and relevant stakeholders to get a better perspective of the situation in Cambodia and unveil new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation,” he said.

One participant of the Second Study Visit, Waldemar Dubaniowski, Polish ambassador to Cambodia with residence in Bangkok, lauded the progress of development in Cambodia and spoke highly of the trip, which he said walked everyone through the achievements and potential advantages of the northwestern provinces of Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap, along with updated government policies, according to the foreign ministry.

Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Ouk Sorphorn contended that the study visit would provide greater international exposure for Cambodia’s unique offerings. “Ambassadors of each country will report on the good memories they had in both provinces to their governments and peoples, as well as share them with their followers on social media platforms.

“Whenever they post beautiful pictures about the Kingdom, this will help inspire their fans to come visit Cambodia to explore the reality,” he said.

Khemara pointed out that arrivals to Cambodia have substantially picked up since travel restrictions were scrapped, with more than 740,000 international visitors recorded in the first seven months of this year, up by 560 per cent over the same time in 2021.

“I am also optimistic that the joint Cambodia-Thailand promotional campaign ‘Two Kingdoms, One Destination’ will induce greater dynamism of tourism and connectivity between our peoples and the rest of the world,” he said.

During a welcoming dinner later that day, Khemara also took the opportunity to promote Cambodia’s culinary arts, traditional performances, and a plethora of wonderful Khmer products, according to the foreign ministry.

The tourism ministry reported that Siem Reap province tallied more than 1.2 million domestic tourists in the January-July period, up by 890 per cent year-on-year, with Cambodians and foreign residents accounting for 1.1 million and 80,000, respectively, rising by 799 per cent and 1,352 per cent.