President Tony Tan begins state visit to Cambodia

President Tony Tan is greeted by Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Royal Palace Kong Sam Ol upon his arrival at Phnom Penh on Jan 8, 2017.
President Tony Tan is greeted by Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Royal Palace Kong Sam Ol upon his arrival at Phnom Penh on Jan 8, 2017.PHOTO: MCI
President Tony Tan arrives at Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Jan 8, 2017.
President Tony Tan arrives at Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Jan 8, 2017.PHOTO: MCI
Entrepreneur Nicholas Goh was among the people highlighted by President Tan at the reception.
Entrepreneur Nicholas Goh was among the people highlighted by President Tan at the reception.

It has been a rocky road to success for Mr Nicholas Goh, a Singaporean who first set up a composting facility in Cambodia five years ago.

Twice, he was forced to shutter his business after struggling to keep it afloat. But he pressed on, and his third attempt is going strong.

His company, TwinAgri, now produces about 800,000kg of organic fertiliser a month, and offers consulting services to farmers in Cambodia, where more than 70 per cent of people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

The 34-year-old was among the people highlighted by President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday in Phnom Penh, at a reception for Singaporeans living and working in Cambodia.

Mr Goh, who lives in Phnom Penh three weeks out of a month and spends the remaining time in Singapore with his wife and two children, said: "I hope to promote environmental and food security, and healthy foods to the younger generation, so that more will be willing to step up and get their hands dirty to protect our future generations."

Dr Tan spent the first night of his four-day state visit to Cambodia mingling with about 200 Singaporeans at Hotel Sofitel Phnom Penh over a spread of Singapore favourites such as rojak and chicken rice.

In his welcome remarks there, he spoke warmly not just of the longstanding ties between Cambodia and Singapore, but of the Singaporeans from all walks of life who have ventured to Cambodia.

"As Singapore builds on what we have achieved as a nation, Singaporeans based overseas will continue to play an important role in the next chapter of Singapore's journey," Dr Tan said.

Some Singaporeans have taken familiar Singapore hawker fare like chicken rice and bak chor mee to Cambodia's doorstep, while others are successful entrepreneurs, like Mr Goh, he added.

Dr Tan also said he is heartened that Singaporeans have actively helped to improve the lives of Cambodian communities.

He cited Mr Oh Choon Aik, the centre director for the Boys' Brigade Learning Centre in Siem Reap, who plays a key role in teaching young Cambodians English and imparting important values and skills through recreational activities.

"All of you who live and work here are ambassadors of Singapore, and it is these people-to-people connections that form the strong foundations for Singapore- Cambodia ties," he said.

Dr Tan noted that the leaders of Singapore and Cambodia have maintained good ties with each other over the years, building on the friendship between Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the late Cambodian King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

He looks forward to renewing these ties during meetings with the royal family, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other Cambodian leaders in the next few days. Singapore is keen to further strengthen relations with Cambodia, he said.

Dr Tan and Mr Hun Sen will witness the signing of two agreements today, aimed at boosting the countries' collaboration in the fields of vocational education and healthcare.

He landed at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday afternoon, and received a rousing red carpet welcome. He was received by Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Royal Palace Kong Sam Ol and Tourism Minister Thong Khon.

Dr Tan later laid a ceremonial wreath at the Independence Monument. The 20m-tall lotus-shaped structure in the heart of Phnom Penh commemorates Cambodia's independence from France in 1953, and is also a memorial for the country's war dead.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2017, with the headline 'President Tan begins state visit to Cambodia'. Print Edition | Subscribe