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Cambodia & Diplomacy: S.E. Jacques Pellet, " Francophonie is alive and well "

The splendid terrace of the Sora Sy Deck (Rosewood Phnom Penh) hosted a cocktail party on Thursday evening to mark the International Day of Francophonie. It was a convivial gathering that gave a host of personalities, officials, French-speaking businessmen, members of the OIF and other institutions the opportunity to meet and interact over a particularly refined and generous buffet-bar.

Jacques Pellet, French Ambassador to Cambodia
Jacques Pellet, French Ambassador to Cambodia

This wonderful evening was, of course, an opportunity for the French ambassador to Cambodia, Jacques Pellet, to share his views on the French-speaking world, its influence around the world and his commitment to the Kingdom.

A language in good health

After thanking the guests of honour and the participants, Mr Pellet expressed his delight at this pleasant meeting, which would enable him to "speak in the knowledge that we won't be translated". "I always have great admiration for translators, even if some people sometimes say 'to translate is to betray'," he said:

"La Francophonie means celebrating that famous meeting in Niamey on 20 March 1970, because it's clearly important to remember that His Majesty the King Father, Norodom Sihanouk, was one of the founding members of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, so celebrating this day here in Cambodia obviously has a very special meaning.

"The good news is that the French-speaking world is doing well. There are 320 million French speakers around the world. French is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world, after Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic. But along with English, it is the only language spoken on all five continents.''

"And French is also the second most widely learnt foreign language in the world, with around thirty countries using French as an official language. In 2024, we will have the opportunity to celebrate the French-speaking world on several occasions. First of all, there will be the Olympic and Paralympic Games in France. Since 1896, French and English have been the only two official languages. During these Games, the results are announced first in French and then in English. It is obviously under the sign of sport that this week of the Francophonie is taking place here today, as in many other countries".

The ambassador's speech at the Sora Sy Deck (Rosewood Phnom Penh)
The ambassador's speech at the Sora Sy Deck (Rosewood Phnom Penh)

The diplomat then went on to talk about the possibility of Cambodia hosting the Francophonie Summit in 2026, a major event that many would like to see take place in the Kingdom.

"Later this year, we will be hosting the 19th Francophonie Summit, which will open at the Château de Villers-Cotterêts. The plenary meetings will be held in Paris. This is the first time that France has hosted the Francophonie Summit since 1991. We are therefore very proud and honoured, and I believe that we will do everything we can to make this a successful summit on the theme of creating, innovating and undertaking in French", he declared, adding:

"I would remind you that French is a formidable vehicle for intellectual debate and scientific research, but also for job creation. And I believe that this is a matter of great interest to Cambodia.''

"So obviously, during his official visit to France, His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni informed our President of the Republic of Cambodia's wish to host the summit, the 20th summit of the Francophonie in 2026. And as you know, President Macron immediately gave his full support to this proposal. So it is our hope that this bid can go ahead. I think it would be a very big event for Cambodia, of course, because no fewer than 88 Member States and heads of state or government would be coming to the Kingdom. But it would also send out a strong signal, as this would be only the second time that the Francophonie summit has been held in Asia. The first was in Vietnam in 1997 ''.

A common language

"Of course, French is the basis, I would say, of our relationship. Of course, Cambodia has strong relations with many countries. Ours is special; it goes back a long way," added Mr Pellet, stressing the importance of continuing to promote the French language in the country''.

"And in everything we do, there's always the language that's there in the end, this common language that's there. As you know, the French team is working on heritage. There was the CIC Angkor (International Coordination Committee) which met last week in Siem Reap. There is also the area of higher education, sustainable development and defence''.

During the ambassador's speech at the Sora Sy Deck (Rosewood Phnom Penh)
During the ambassador's speech at the Sora Sy Deck (Rosewood Phnom Penh)

''And I believe that His Excellency Prak Sokhonn, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has also often been able to pay tribute, and you yourself, Deputy Prime Minister Sok Chenda Sophea, to your Cambodian peacekeepers who speak French and are deployed in French-speaking regions".

"And of course Cambodia is at the heart of a strategic region with which France wants to strengthen its relations, the Indo-Pacific region and Asia."

"We have also stepped up our support for French-language education in Cambodia, notably through a dedicated fund that we are in the process of setting up and which has enabled many teachers - and I would like to pay tribute to the teachers present this evening - to benefit from work placements in France. I can tell you that we are going to continue this support. I also think it's important to promote the teaching of French to the younger generation... French is in fact a language of memory.

Anyone interested in the history of this country must at some point use the French language, because many of its archives are in French, not only for its heritage but for many other things.

"It's an important language of memory, but of course it's also a language of the future for young people, because I believe that speaking French should also give people access to careers.''

"Last year we organised a meeting between alumni and French businessmen, to show just how accessible careers can be, and I often say to students, 'learn French, because you're going to end up a minister', since as you know, 40% of the ministers in this new, much rejuvenated government are French-speaking, including the Prime Minister, who spoke French to our President of the National Assembly during his visit to Paris in January. So speaking French also means being able to access grants and study".

A language of cultures

In conclusion, the ambassador focused on French as a "language of diversity, of culture in the world" and on the mission of this "language of cultures", he declared, stressing: "We like to say that the French-speaking world is, in fact, a language of cultures".

"French belongs to those who speak it, it doesn't belong to any country.''

"Obviously, we're doing everything we can to ensure that, with you, young Cambodians continue to learn this language. And to conclude, in a world riven by conflict, where the logic of confrontation seems to prevail over that of partnership and cooperation, let's not forget the dual mission of the French-speaking world and the values it defends. The first mission is obviously to promote the French language, as well as cultural and linguistic diversity, but it also means promoting peace, democracy and human rights".

 

Listen to the ambassador's speech in full

 

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