Search Results

Search Term: cambodia china

Number of Results: 207


Cambodia to Sign FTA with China to Boost Agro Exports, Potentially Offset EBA Losses

Comment: នេះអាចសបញ្ជាក់ថាលោកហ៊ុនសែនមិនមានចេតនាកែប្រែស្ថានភាពរបត់នយោបាយខ្មែរទៅរកលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យសេរីពហុបក្សតាមការទាមទាររបស់សហគមអឺរ៉ុបទេ ហើយការកំណត់ទៅចិនដើម្បីចុះហត្ថលេខាពាណិជ្ជកម្មដែលមានផលតិចជាងEBAច្រើនណាស់របៀបនេះ ជាការផ្គើនទៅលើសហគមអន្តរជាតិនិងប្រជាជាតិខ្មែរទាំងមូលដែលស្រឡាញ់លទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យនិងការបោះឆ្នោតដោយសេរីយុត្តិធម៍នោះ។ នេះជាយុទ្ធនាការបន្តអំណាចផ្តាច់ការ ផ្តាច់សង្ខារជីវិតខ្មែរ ជាជាងប្រយោជន៍ជាតិនិងប្រជាជន។ ជាការមើលឃើញ សហគមអឺរ៉ុបនឹងដក២០ភាគរយតាមកំហិត ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋជាពិសេសកម្មកររោងចក្ររាប់សែននាក់នឹងអត់ការងារធ្វើ។ ២០ភាគរាយអាចថាតិច តែវាធ្វើអោយកិត្យានុភាពនិងភាពទុកចិត្តនៃការវិនិយោគទុននៅកម្ពុជាពីសំណាក់អ្នកវិនិយោគទុនល្អៗនឹងបាត់បង់។

10 July 2020


FILE - Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China April 29, 2019. (Madoka Ikegami/Pool via REUTERS)
FILE – Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China April 29, 2019. (Madoka Ikegami/Pool via REUTERS)

 PrintPHNOM PENH — 

កម្ពុជា​និង​ចិន​ត្រៀម​ចុះ​កិច្ច​ព្រម​ព្រៀង​ពាណិជ្ជកម្ម​សេរី ខណៈ​កម្ពុជា​សំឡឹង​មើល​..

កម្ពុជា​និង​ចិន​ត្រៀម​ចុះ​កិច្ច​ព្រម​ព្រៀង​ពាណិជ្ជកម្ម​សេរី ខណៈ​កម្ពុជា​សំឡឹង​មើល​សក្តា​នុពល​នាំ​ចេញ​ផលិត​ផល​កសិកម្មមន្រ្តី​កម្ពុជា​បាន​ឲ្យ​ដឹង​ថា​លោកនាយករដ្ឋមន្រ្តី ហ៊ុន សែន នឹងដឹកនាំ​គណៈ​ប្រតិភូ​ធ្វើ​ដំណើរ​ទៅ​ប្រទេស​ចិន ក្នុង​ខែ​សីហា​ខាង​មុខ​នេះ ដើម្បី​ចុះ​ហត្ថលេខា​លើ​កិច្ច​ព្រម​ព្រៀង​ពាណិជ្ជកម្មសេរី ​(FTA)។ មន្រ្តីរដ្ឋាភិបាល​លើក​ឡើង​ថា ​កិច្ច​ព្រម​ព្រៀង​នឹង​ជួយ​បង្កើន​ទីផ្សារ​របស់​កម្ពុជា​ក្នុង​ប្រទេស​ចិន បើ​ទោះ​ការ​នាំ​ចូល​របស់​ចិន​មក​កម្ពុជា​មាន​ទំហំ​ច្រើន​ក៏​ដោយ។ នៅ​ក្នុង​វិបត្តិ​ជំងឺ​កូវីដ​១៩​នេះ កម្ពុជា​សំឡឹង​មើល​ផលិត​ផល​កសិកម្ម​​កាន់​តែ​ច្រើន​ដែល​អាច​នាំ​ទៅ​ប្រទេស​ចិន។ ប៉ុន្តែ​អ្នក​ជំនាញ​ខាង​កសិកម្ម​ចោទ​ជា​សំណួរ​លើ​សមត្ថភាព​របស់​កម្ពុជា​ ក្នុង​ការ​ទទួល​បាន​ផល​ប្រយោជន៍​ពី​ការ​នាំ​ចូល​ទៅ​ប្រទេស​ចិន។ អ្នក​វិភាគ​ក៏​បារម្ភ​អំពី​ការ​ពឹង​ផ្អែក​​កាន់​តែ​ខ្លាំង​ទៅ​លើ​ប្រទេស​ចិន ដែល​នាំ​ឲ្យ​ក្លាយ​ជា​រដ្ឋរណប​មួយ​របស់​ចិន។ លោក ស៊ុន ណារិន នៃ​ VOA​ រាយការណ៍​លម្អិត​ពី​រាជធានី​ភ្នំពេញ។ទទួលព័ត៌មានជាវីដេអូផ្សេងទៀតពី​ VOA: youtube.com/voakhmerserviceទទួលព័ត៌មានពី VOA តាមបណ្តាញសង្គម Instagram: instagram.com/voakhmer

Posted by VOA Khmer on Friday, July 10, 2020

Prime Minister Hun Sen is scheduled to be in Beijing on August 12 to sign a free trade agreement with his Chinese counterpart. The new agreement is expected to usher in an enhanced level of economic cooperation between the two countries, deemed especially important to Cambodia.

Cambodia’s undeveloped economy has benefited from close ties with Europe since the United Nations Transitional Authority of Cambodia helped govern the country from 1991 to 1993 following years of war that had decimated the country.

The deal is another sign of the growing friendship between China and Cambodia. China has become the Kingdom’s largest investor and its’ geopolitical support to counter the West and, on occasion, ASEAN.

The negotiated Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has been kept under wraps since talks began in December. Recently, officials have said it will hinge on agricultural trade and build on Cambodia’s existing trade with the Asian and global economic powerhouse.

Vongsey Vissoth, a permanent secretary of state at the Economy Ministry, confirmed on Wednesday in a press conference that Prime Minister Hun Sen would make the trip to Beijing to sign the agreement.

“Now we have FTA from China and [we] try the best,’’ Vongsey Vissoth said. ‘’FTA is just a market, but we need to have products to export.’’

On April 7, Hun Sen called on citizens to focus on growing and processing agricultural products to sustain the economy because, he noted, other economic drivers like tourism and manufacturing were faltering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will use this difficult time as an opportunity for Cambodia’s agricultural sector, which has slow growth,” Hun Sen said.

Vongsey Vissoth acknowledged that there would be challenges to overcome to fully utilize the FTA, noting requirements for exporting to China would be related to pricing and quality and sanitation of goods and products. The Chinese had indicated, he said, that fish exports had potential in the future.

However, multiple reports including some from the Mekong River Commission, show that fish numbers are fast dropping in Cambodian rivers on account of climate change and the increasing number of dams along the mainstream Mekong.

Cambodia has also struggled to consolidate its agricultural production in the past, largely because of the lack of infrastructures, such as warehousing, cold storage, processing plants, and generally high operating costs, including electricity.

Government figures show that bilateral trade in 2018 was around $7.4 billion, which was heavily skewed in China’s favor, accounting for more than 80 percent of trade. That year, Cambodia exported around $800 million, mostly in agricultural products, and imported large quantities of raw materials for the manufacturing and construction sectors.

FILE- A man carries a sack of rice to dry them under sunlight at a rice farm during the harvest at Kork Banteay village, Kandal province, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
FILE- A man carries a sack of rice to dry them under sunlight at a rice farm during the harvest at Kork Banteay village, Kandal province, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Hean Vanhan, the secretary of state of Agriculture Ministry who took part in the FTA negotiations, said a number of products will be on a tariff-free list, which will be reviewed periodically. For now, he said, rice, bananas, and mangoes will be on the list.

“We opened the blockages and obstacles [to trade],” he said. “The government has tried [to get] the policy and then we depend on the private companies’ capacity.”

A critical aspect to the FTA will be whether it can offset losses from the partial suspension of trade benefits to Europe. There has been no public mention of whether China has agreed to import clothing produced in Cambodia. China, itself, is an exporter of clothing and raw materials used in the manufacturing process.

Hean Vanhan said the FTA would be able to limit damage from the suspension of EU privileges but did not elaborate on how.

“If we lose EBA, I think this agreement, we have has very large benefits and it is better,” Hean Vanhan said.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the trade agreement will benefit Cambodia’s garment sector since Cambodia will be able to export to China without tariffs, even though exports to China were seven to eight percent, compared to the 45 percent already being exported to the European Union.

Read More …

A Jungle Airstrip Stirs Suspicions About China’s Plans for Cambodia

A Jungle Airstrip Stirs Suspicions About China’s Plans for Cambodia

Source: the New York Time

Down the coast from Dara Sakor, American military officials say, China has reached a deal for exclusive rights to expand an existing Cambodian naval base, even as Beijing denies military intentions in the country.

“We are concerned that the runway and port facilities at Dara Sakor are being constructed on a scale that would be useful for military purposes and which greatly exceed current and projected infrastructure needs for commercial activity,” Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said by email.

“Any steps by the Cambodian government to invite a foreign military presence,” Colonel Eastburn added, “would disturb peace and stability in Southeast Asia.”

The Chinese military’s “string of pearls” strategy depends on far-flung regional outposts. Some think Cambodia is becoming one.

The runway at Dara Sakor International Airport, which a Chinese company is constructing, will be the longest in Cambodia.
The runway at Dara Sakor International Airport, which a Chinese company is constructing, will be the longest in Cambodia.

By Hannah Beech

Photographs by Adam Dean

  • Published Dec. 22, 2019 Updated Dec. 23, 2019, 8:21 a.m. ET

DARA SAKOR, Cambodia — The airstrip stretches like a scar through what was once unspoiled Cambodian jungle.

When completed next year on a remote stretch of shoreline, Dara Sakor International Airport will boast the longest runway in Cambodia, complete with the kind of tight turning bay favored by fighter jet pilots. Nearby, workers are clearing trees from a national park to make way for a port deep enough to host naval ships.

By The New York Times

The politically connected Chinese company building the airstrip and port says the facilities are for civilian use. But the scale of the land deal at Dara Sakor — which secures 20 percent of Cambodia’s coastline for 99 years — has raised eyebrows, especially since the portion of the project built so far is already moldering in malarial jungle.

The activity at Dara Sakor and other nearby Chinese projects is stirring fears that Beijing plans to turn this small Southeast Asian nation into a de facto military outpost.

Already, a far-flung Chinese construction boom — on disputed islands in the South China Sea, across the Indian Ocean and onward to Beijing’s first military base overseas, in the African Horn nation of Djibouti — has raised alarms about China’s military ambitions at a time when the United States’ presence in the region has waned. Known as the “string of pearls,” Beijing’s defense strategy would benefit from a jewel in Cambodia.

“Why would the Chinese show up in the middle of a jungle to build a runway?” said Sophal Ear, a political scientist at Occidental College in Los Angeles. “This will allow China to project its air power through the region, and it changes the whole game.”

A Chinese construction project in the Dara Sakor investment zone. China is Cambodia’s biggest investor.
A Chinese construction project in the Dara Sakor investment zone. China is Cambodia’s biggest investor.

As China extends its might overseas, it is bumping up against a regional security umbrella shaped by the United States decades ago. Cambodia, a recipient of Western largess after American bombs devastated its countryside during the Vietnam War, was supposed to be firmly ensconced in the democratic political orbit.

But to win his place as Asia’s longest-serving leader, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia has turned his back on free elections and rule of law. He excoriates the United States while warmly embracing China, which is now Cambodia’s largest investor and trading partner.

Down the coast from Dara Sakor, American military officials say, China has reached a deal for exclusive rights to expand an existing Cambodian naval base, even as Beijing denies military intentions in the country.

“We are concerned that the runway and port facilities at Dara Sakor are being constructed on a scale that would be useful for military purposes and which greatly exceed current and projected infrastructure needs for commercial activity,” Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said by email.

“Any steps by the Cambodian government to invite a foreign military presence,” Colonel Eastburn added, “would disturb peace and stability in Southeast Asia.”

Raising a billboard for a Dara Sakor construction project. The Cambodian government says the area of southwestern Cambodia will be a global logistics hub.
Raising a billboard for a Dara Sakor construction project. The Cambodian government says the area of southwestern Cambodia will be a global logistics hub.

An American intelligence report published this year raised the possibility that “Cambodia’s slide toward autocracy,” as Mr. Hun Sen tightens his 34-year grip on power, “could lead to a Chinese military presence in the country.”

This month, the United States Treasury Department accused a senior general linked to Dara Sakor of corruption and imposed sanctions on him.

Mr. Hun Sen denies that he is letting China’s military set up in Cambodia. Instead, his government claims that Dara Sakor’s runway and port will transform this remote rainforest into a global logistics hub that will “make miracles possible,” as Dara Sakor’s promotional literature puts it.

Read More …

Cambodia’s Disastrous Dependence on China: A History Lesson

FCambodia’s Disastrous Dependence on China: A History Lesson

Op-Ed: The Diplomate

Overdependence on China undermines Cambodia’s national security. We know because it’s happened before.By Chansambath BongDecember 04, 2019

Cambodia’s Disastrous Dependence on China: A History Lesson
Cambodian Prince Norodom Sihanouk, then living in exile, arrives in Beijing after an 11-nation state tour, July 5, 1973.Credit: AP Photo/Horst Faas

In May 1965, then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia terminated diplomatic relations with the United States. In so doing, he altered his strict adherence of neutrality in foreign policy to align with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Sihanouk was in part acting in response to a derogatory article by Bernard Krisher for Newsweek that accused his mother, Queen Sisowath Kossamak, of running a bordello, along with an air raid by an American plane on a village in Kampong Cham province, which killed one teenage boy and injured a few others. Although these events may be viewed as the last straws that pushed Cambodia-U.S. ties to the breaking point, other factors — such as Pathet Lao’s victory at the Plain of Jarres in 1961, the downfall of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963, and America’s alleged sabotaging efforts against his conference proposal — all played parts in the debacle.

Sihanouk’s decision to opt for close alignment with China had a number of implications for Cambodia’s national security. Internally, suspension of American aid in 1963 stirred contention among the rank and file of the Cambodian armed forces close to General Lon Nol and the commercial elites, both of whom had fed on U.S. largess and economic benefits since 1955.

Moreover, the halt pushed Cambodia’s aid-dependent economy into a tailspin. The nationalization of banking and trade industries created opportunities for corrupt officials to benefit from illegal rice sales at the expense of the general public, who were bearing the brunt of economic hardship.

Externally, alignment with China created both short- and long-term impacts on Cambodia’s foreign policy. For one thing, Cambodia’s alignment with China allowed Beijing to take advantage of Sihanouk’s unbalanced foreign policy. Chinese officials pressured the prince to allow Viet Cong supply lines to run through Kompong Som port up to the Ho Chi Minh trail. That turned out to be an unofficial invitation for American B-52 Stratofortress bomber runs, and Cambodia is still feeling the effects of this today.

In the short term, Sihanouk’s choice also pushed Cambodia into deeper diplomatic isolation with no friend to rely on as the decision to break off ties with the United States in 1965 came just as that the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution was about to sweep across China. Once the Red Guards occupied the PRC’s foreign affairs ministry in mid-1966, China’s foreign policy radically shifted from Pancha Shila or the five principles of peaceful co-existence to exporting revolution abroad. Prince Sihanouk became increasingly suspicious of China’s intentions after rumors that Beijing was secretly exporting its revolutionary ideas through the Cambodian-Chinese Friendship Association spread across the country.

The last straw came when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who was a target of the Red Guards at this point, openly asked Cambodia to allow the ethnic Chinese community to pledge their allegiance to Communism and Chairman Mao, a move that broke with Beijing’s long-held tradition of Pancha Shila. These developments greatly unnerved Sihanouk, who had previously expected that China would stand behind him through thick and thin without trying to impose its ideology on Cambodia.

The rapid radicalization of Chinese foreign policy made the monarch feel like he had painted himself into a corner. He had alienated the American the previous year and now it looked like the Chinese were about to flip on him as well. It would be nothing short of diplomatic suicide for Cambodia if Beijing reneged.ADVERTISEMENT

Although Sino-Cambodian relations gradually went back to normalcy in 1968, Chinese officials appeared to cross the line when, according to one account, Kang Sheng, who was a member of the Gang of Four, visited Khmer Rouge’s liberated region in 1968. This could suggest that part of the Chinese government had begun working with the Khmer Communists behind Sihanouk’s back before the 1970 coup. It’s not surprising, then, that Beijing threw its full weight behind the Khmer Rouge when it took over Kampuchea in April 1975.

Read More …

Buying Cambodia: China’s long embrace of a tyrant

CAMBODIACHINESE SEPTEMBER 1, 2019

Buying Cambodia: China’s long embrace of a tyrant

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 29, 2019. Photo: AFP/Madoka Ikegami/Pool

Buying Cambodia: China’s long embrace of a tyrant

Authoritarian PM Hun Sen has reportedly given Beijing the green light for a naval base on the Gulf of Thailand

ByJONATHAN MANTHORPE

It is always sound policy for observers of international politics to greet reports from intelligence agencies with a raised eyebrow and caustic smile.

All intelligence agencies have their own agendas, and they are by definition staffed by people inclined towards conspiracy theories and disaster scenarios.

It is only when leaked intelligence material fits into a pattern of proven truths, and when a government allows a named official to publicly support the intelligence allegation that it is worth taking the story half seriously.

For these reasons, the claim that China will build its own military facility at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base in Preah Sihanouk province on the Gulf of Thailand deserves re-examination.

The story first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on July 21 and was immediately denied with a suspicious amount of bluster by both the Chinese government and Cambodia’s leader of 34 years, Hun Sen.

Hun Sen dismissed the story, saying Cambodia’s constitution forbids the country from hosting foreign military bases. But as he has driven a bulldozer through every major aspect of the Cambodian constitution to keep himself in power for decades, and made the country little more than Beijing’s vassal state, invoking the constitution is not a convincing argument.

For Beijing, acquiring a naval base at the heart of Southeast Asia would be a significant security and force-projection multiplier when coupled with the seven military bases it has built on islands constructed on shoals in the South China Sea. It would also be one more gem in Beijing’s so-called “string of pearls” strategy, including Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Gwadar in Pakistan and a full-blown military base in Djibouti.

Washington and other western administrations have been watching with suspicion and concern Beijing’s 20-year charm offensive aimed at Hun Sen. This has led to both the Cambodian economy and Cambodian foreign policy being dominated by Beijing’s interests.

Read More …

China’s New Naval Base: Cambodia

China’s New Naval Base: Cambodia

by Debalina Ghoshal
August 12, 2019 at 4:00 am

  • “[Scepticism] has grown louder recently, with the release of satellite images from the European Space Agency showing that the runway for the site’s airport is far longer than is required for civilian aircraft” — Andrew Nachemson, Cambodia-based journalist, South China Morning Post, March 5, 2019.
  • “Over the past two years [Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen] has accepted more than $600m (£480m) in loans as part of China’s controversial Belt and Road initiative.” — Hannah Ellis-Petersen, South-east Asia correspondent, The Guardian, July 22, 2019.
  • “It appears that there are massive strings attached to these loans. If Cambodia had said no, do you think China would continue its massive investment in Cambodia?” — Sophal Ear, Cambodian political scientist, to The Guardian, July 22, 2019.
  • Without a change of government in Phnom Penh, brought about by an election that truly reflects public sentiment, China could be given virtually free rein in Cambodia to further its political and military designs on Asia.
A recent Wall Street Journal report claims that China has signed a secret deal with Cambodia that gives the Chinese military access to Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base. Washington has expressed worry over Cambodia’s move away from democracy and American influence, and its descent into autocratic rule and towards China’s orbit. Pictured: U.S. Marines and Royal Cambodian Navy sailors participate in the multinational “CARAT Cambodia 2016” exercise near Ream Naval Base, November 2, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Petty Officer Lowell Whitman)

China’s efforts to establish regional hegemony were highlighted recently by a Wall Street Journal report claiming that Beijing signed a secret deal in the spring with Phnom Penh, giving the Chinese armed forces access to Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand, “not far from a large airport now being constructed by a Chinese company.”

Although the report was vehemently denied by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who called it “the worst-ever made up news against Cambodia,” Washington has cause to take it seriously. The United States is aware of China’s attempts to strengthen its strategic foothold in Southeast Asia in general and the South China Sea in particular. Washington also has expressed worry over Cambodia’s move away from democracy and American influence, on the one hand, and its descent into autocratic rule and towards China’s orbit on the other.

In spite of Article 1 of its Constitution, which states that “the Kingdom of Cambodia shall be independent, sovereign, peaceful, permanently neutral and non-aligned country,” in January, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats— who just resigned his post — assessed that “Cambodia’s slide toward autocracy… opens the way for a constitutional amendment that could lead to a Chinese military presence in the country.”

Meanwhile, both Beijing and Phnom Penh claim that all investment by the Chinese-owned Union Development Group in the Koh Kong province and along the Cambodian coastline — such as an international airport, luxury tourist resorts, casinos and golf courses, among others — are part of a major project for civilian use alone. However, as Cambodia-based journalist Andrew Nachemson reportedin March:

“… scepticism has grown louder recently, with the release of satellite images from the European Space Agency showing that the runway for the site’s airport is far longer than is required for civilian aircraft…

“The satellite images suggest there was a flurry of construction on the runway after US Vice-President Mike Pence delivered a letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in November, expressing concern that the project had a military use.”

In response to the Wall Street Journal report, the U.S. State Department released a statement reminding Cambodia that it had a “constitutional commitment to its people to pursue an independent foreign policy,” and warning that:

“We are concerned that any steps by the Cambodian government to invite a foreign military presence in Cambodia would threaten the coherence and centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in coordinating regional developments, and disturb peace and stability in Southeast Asia.”

As The Guardian reported in July:

“Over the past two years [Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen] has accepted more than $600m (£480m) in loans as part of China’s controversial Belt and Road initiative. China has also committed almost $2bn to build roads and bridges across Cambodia, with further infrastructure and multimillion-dollar business deals in the works, and given another $150m in aid.”

Sophal Ear, a “prominent Cambodian political scientist,” told The Guardian:

“It appears that there are massive strings attached to these loans. If Cambodia had said no, do you think China would continue its massive investment in Cambodia?”

Read More …

China’s Cambodian Invasion by Sam Rainsy

China’s Cambodian Invasion

Aug 2, 2019 SAM RAINSY

Op-Ed: Project Syndicates

China’s dangerous military expansionism depends on compliant local regimes and inaction on the part of the international community. In the case of Cambodia, which has reportedly given China rights to a naval base, the international community should demand a new general election that does not exclude real challengers.

PARIS – It has long been feared that Cambodia’s growing dependence on China – its largest aid donor, investor, and creditor – would lead to a Chinese military presence in the country. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, those fears are now coming true.

Like a gambler reliant on a loan shark, Cambodia has, in recent years, racked up massive, opaque debts to China, which it cannot repay. This has given China considerable leverage, enabling it, for example, to evadeUS President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs, by re-routing exports to the United States through Cambodia’s Chinese-owned Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone.

Judging by China’s history of “debt-trap diplomacy,” it was only a matter of time before it used its leverage over Cambodia to strengthen its regional military posture. According to the Wall Street Journal, the time came this spring, when China and Cambodia secretly signed an agreement giving China exclusive rights to a part of Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand.

Both the Chinese and Cambodian governments deny the report, which Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called “made up” and “baseless.” But that should be no surprise: as Hun Sen noted, hosting foreign military bases is illegal in Cambodia, according to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements that ended its long civil war. Furthermore, as the US Department of State has pointed out, Cambodia has a constitutional commitment to its people to maintain a neutral foreign policy.

Read More …

Cambodia’s opposition faces renewed crackdown amid China shift

As he spoke, his eyes filled with tears.

The family said they were told by prison officials that Rorn had a seizure, hit his head and died – but they dispute the story. According to Tita, Rorn had no history of epilepsy and his injuries did not seem consistent with a seizure.

After the funeral, Tita fled the village. He said police had come looking for him at his home on two occasions.

“I am scared but I want to tell the truth and I want justice,” he said.

Cambodia’s opposition faces renewed crackdown amid China shift

Op-Ed: Al Jazeera

With senior leaders jailed or exiled, local and regional supporters of opposition report attacks and harassment.by Andrew Nachemson & Yon Sineat19 May 2019

CNRP leader Kem Sokha greets supporters on the last day of campaigning ahead of local elections in 2017. He was detained a few months later and remains under house arrest [File: Heng Sinith/AP Photo]
CNRP leader Kem Sokha greets supporters on the last day of campaigning ahead of local elections in 2017. He was detained a few months later and remains under house arrest [File: Heng Sinith/AP Photo]

MORE ON CAMBODIA

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Nol Puthearith was a security guard at the headquarters of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and continued to watch over the building in the Cambodian capital even after the main opposition party itself was forcibly dissolved by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Chinese investment brings casinos to Cambodia (2:34)

Last month, he was attacked by a group of strangers.

“They beat me until I was unconscious,” said Puthearith, who has supported the opposition and acted as a bodyguard for party leaders since the late 1990s. “I have no idea who they are and I can’t identify them.”

A week after the April 13 attack in Phnom Penh, another opposition member named Tith Rorn was taken to a police station in Kampong Cham province for questioning over a crime that had taken place more than a decade ago.

Cambodian court issues arrest warrants for top opposition leaders

While not directly related, the two events are part of what some observers see as a pattern of ongoing abuse and intimidation against political opponents of Hun Sen, exacerbated by a recent threat by the European Union to cancel its preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) trade agreement with Cambodia over its human rights record.

Hun Sen has accused the EU of holding Cambodia hostage and warned that he would renew his crackdown on the opposition if Europe did not relent.

Lee Morgenbesser, author of Behind the Facade: Elections under Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia, said that while the CNRP is officially disbanded, the government still fears its influence because its supporters have been driven underground.

“Hun Sen’s government has eliminated the threat of the CNRP at the national level, but it has much work to do at the local level,” he explained. “The problem for Hun Sen now is identifying who to repress, how to repress them and when to repress them.”

The CNRP’s leader Kem Sokha remains under house arrest after he was detained at the end of 2017 and accused of treason.

The party itself, which came a close second in the 2013 national elections and in the 2017 local polls, was dissolved two years ago on spurious allegations of attempted revolution aided by the United States. The move ensured that Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) secured every one of the 125 seats in the National Assembly in last year’s election.

Although there was a relaxation of political repression after the polls and many political prisoners were released, including 14 members of the CNRP, the attacks on opposition supporters have now resumed.

CNRP member Kong Mas, who supported cancelling the EBA, was arrested for incitement in January.


Tith Rorn, a supporter of Cambodia’s opposition CNRP who was detained over a fight that happened 13 years ago and died in mysterious circumstances in prison three days later [Al Jazeera]

Beatings, assaults

At least three individuals, including Puthearith, have been assaulted in cases the party claims are politically motivated since March.

Rorn, the CNRP coordinator, was arrested on April 15 over a fight with a pro-government activist that took place 13 years ago, well beyond the statute of limitations. He later died in prison.READ MORE

Trick or real? CNRP split over Cambodia move to ease politics ban

After the altercation, Rorn fled to Anlong Veng near the Thai border but came home from time to time. He had been living in the village for about a year when the police came for him.

“On the second day of Khmer New Year at 7:30 in the morning, police came and said they needed to take him for questioning,” his father, Eam Tita, a provincial coordinator for the CNRP in Kampong Cham, told Al Jazeera from an undisclosed location.

“After they took him for questioning, he never came back and three days later police told my neighbour that my son had died.”

As he spoke, his eyes filled with tears.

The family said they were told by prison officials that Rorn had a seizure, hit his head and died – but they dispute the story. According to Tita, Rorn had no history of epilepsy and his injuries did not seem consistent with a seizure.

“There were bruises all over his body like he had been beaten and his neck was broken,” Tita said. The family was unable to get a doctor to do an official autopsy, because doctors in the area were too scared to get involved.

After the funeral, Tita fled the village. He said police had come looking for him at his home on two occasions.

“I am scared but I want to tell the truth and I want justice,” he said.


Popular opposition figure Sin Rozeth takes a selfie with a supporter after being interrogated for more than four hours by a provincial court in Battambang [Andrew Nachemson/Al Jazeera]

Strengthening grip

On May 10, Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a group of MPs from around Southeast Asia, called for an independent investigation into Rorn’s death. In a statement, the group urged the Cambodian government to stop targeting members of the opposition.

“The continued attacks on the opposition shows that the government has no interest in meaningful dialogue, but is only concerned with strengthening its own grip on power,” said Charles Santiago, APHR chairman and a Malaysian MP, said in the statement.

Last week, the US State Department also released a statement expressing concern and calling for an investigation, as well as for the release of Kem Sokha.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Rhona Smith, has also expressed worry, noting “few tangible improvements” in the political environment.

“I remain concerned that pressure on former members of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party continue unabated,” she said in a press conference at the end of a fact-finding mission on May 9.

Puthearith, the security guard, fled to Thailand after he was attacked, but he says colleagues informed him that police have come looking for him three times. He fears he might be permanently detained or worse.

“I’m very concerned for my safety, that’s why I fled Cambodia. What happened to me is politically motivated because I didn’t know those people and I also don’t have any conflict with anyone,” Puthearith said.


Smith: ‘I remain concerned that pressure on former members of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party continue unabated’ [Heng Sinith/AP Photo]

‘Seek refugee status, not a problem’

Read More …

Has new war between US and China in Cambodia reignited again?


The United States and China — The Avoidable War: read article, watch video

ចាប់ផ្តើមដោយនិយាយការពិតពីកម្ពុជាបាត់បង់ចំណូលជាតិមហិមារពីឱនភាពពាណិជ្ជកម្មជាមួយចិន ប្រជាជនកម្ពុជាត្រូវបង្ខំចិត្តធ្វើចំណាកស្រុកនិងអត់ឃ្លាតនៅលើគំនាតខុសគ្នាឆ្ងាយណាស់រវាងអ្នកមានអំណាចនិងប្រជាពលរដ្ឋទូទៅ។ ហ៊ុន-សែន កូនចៅ និងបក្សពួករបស់គាត់មានកប់ក្តោងដោយជួនកាលអាចយកលុយផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនជួយអ្នកក្រជាជាងយកលុយជាតិជួយទៀតនោះក៏អាចធ្វើបានដែរ ហើយក្រុមពួកគាត់នេះបានកំពុងទទួលផលប្រយោជន៌ពីការបន្តកាន់អំណាចដែលខ្វះភាពស្របច្បាប់ ដោយការទទួលយកថវិកាពីចិនធ្វើផ្លូវថ្នល់ដែលជាកម្ចីអោយប្រជាជនខ្មែរជាអ្នកសងជំពាក់វិញ ឬវិនិយោគវារីអគ្គីសនីដែលប៉ះពាល់ដល់បរិដ្ឋាននិងប្រជាជនរស់នៅក្បែរៗនោះ។ សមិទ្ធិផលផ្លូវថ្នល់និងវារីអគ្គីសនីនេះត្រូវបានស្ថានទូតចិនលើកមកអួតដាក់សហរដ្ឋអាមេរិក ដូចគ្នានឹងលោកហ៊ុន-សែនអួតប្រាប់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរថាជាសមិទ្ធិផលខ្លួនផងដែរ។

ប៉ុន្តែអ្វីដែលបារម្មណ៌បំផុតនោះ អំណាចហ៊ុន-សែនក្រោមការដាក់ជើងដោយចិនហាក់ដូចជាអណ្តែតនៅលើព្យុះក្រោមទឹកសព្វថ្ងៃនេះ…តើវាសនាកម្ពុជានឹងធ្លាក់ចុះដូចសម័យខ្មែរក្រហមក្រោមការគាំទ្ររបស់ចិនទៀតឬមួយយ៉ាងណា?

Beginning with truth speech about the huge trade deficit of Cambodia with China. Cambodian people must surrender to migrate to work in another countries for the survival and the huge gap of socioeconomic status of all Cambodian people particularly between general Cambodians and the family of powerful and patronage leaders. Hun Sen, his family and patrons have accumulated largess wealth and sometime they could transfer those personal wealth to support Cambodian people rather than national treasury. The powerful family and patrons have benefited from China’s support to renew their power although this power has been illegitimate. With such power aide, China boasted US about their road buildings and dams while those infrastructures are loans that shall burden all Cambodian citizens to repay, and the dams projects have devastated environment and local Cambodians exponentially. China’s boasting is at the same level of Hun Sen’s who has always manipulated his success to cheat Cambodian people.

But what has been so worried is Hun Sen’s power is just on the tray lifted up by China, in which this tray is floating on the water surface with circling storm underneath….shall destiny of Cambodia will fall into Khmer Rouge style under China’s aids again?

==============

[Posted on Saturday, April 19, 2019 at 3:20AM local time] *English below*
ប្រទេសចិនគឺជាដៃគូពាណិជ្ជកម្មធំជាងគេរបស់ប្រទេសកម្ពុជា តែទំនាក់ទំនងនេះចំណេញខ្លាំងទៅខាងប្រទេសចិន។ ប្រហែល ៨៧% នៃទំនិញដោះដូរគ្នាគឺជាទំនិញនាំចូលមកពីប្រទេសចិន ដែលមិនជួយដល់ការធ្វើអោយមានការងារ ឬជួយដល់ឧស្សាហកម្មដូចទំនាក់ទំនងរបស់ប្រទេសកម្ពុជាជាមួយសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិក ឬសហភាពអឺរ៉ុបនោះទេ។ នេះគ្រាន់តែជាផ្លូវមួយទៀតដែលប្រទេសកម្ពុជា បានងាកចេញពីយុទ្ធសាស្រ្តសេដ្ឋកិច្ចដែលមានតុល្យភាព និងលក្ខណៈចម្រុះច្រើន ទៅរកយុទ្ធសាស្រ្តសេដ្ឋកិច្ចដែលមានការពឹងផ្អែកច្រើនទៅលើប្រទេសចិន។ #fullpictureKH
China is Cambodia’s largest trade partner, but this relationship is heavily skewed in China’s favor. About 87% of trade are Chinese imports, which do not support jobs or industry in the same way Cambodia’s trade relationship with the United States or EU does. This is just one more way Cambodia has shifted from a more balanced and diverse economic approach to one more dependent on China. #fullpictureKH

[Posted on Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 1:30am] មិត្តកម្ពុជាទាំងអស់ចូរប្រុងប្រយ័ត្ន! សហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកកំពុងតែបង្កបញ្ហាម្តងទៀតជាមួយនឹងអ្វីដែលគេហៅថា បញ្ហាឱនភាពពាណិជ្ជកម្ម (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10156316819443224&substory_index=0&id=79770243223។ វាគឺជារឿងធម្មតាទេ ព្រោះនៅក្នុងពិភពនៃសកលភាវូបនីយកម្ម សកម្មភាពពាណិជ្ជកម្មតែងតែធ្វើដំណើរហួសពីកម្រិតទ្វេភាគី។ នៅក្នុងករណីកម្ពុជាវិញ ប្រទេសកម្ពុជាបាននាំចូលនូវវត្ថុធាតុដើមវាយនភ័ណ្ឌ និងគ្រឿងម៉ាស៊ីនវាយនភ័ណ្ឌយ៉ាងច្រើនពីប្រទេសចិន សម្រាប់បម្រើវិស័យកាត់ដេរខណៈដែលខ្លួនបាននាំចេញផលិតផលសម្រេចទៅកាន់គ្រប់ទីកន្លែងទូទាំងសកលលោក ក្នុងនោះរួមមានទាំងសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិក និងសហភាពអឺរ៉ុបផងដែរ។
នៅក្នុងករណីនេះ វាគឺជាភាពសកម្មបំផុតរបស់កម្មករខ្មែរ ដែលបម្រើក្នុងវិស័យឧស្សាហកម្ម។ ក្រៅពីនេះ ទំនាក់ទំនងរវាងរដ្ឋ និងរដ្ឋ គឺមិនមែនត្រឹមតែដើម្បីពាណិជ្ជកម្មនោះឡើយ។ អ្វីដែលគួរឲ្យកត់សម្គាល់ គឺប្រទេសចិនបានកសាងផ្លូវចំនួន៣១ខ្សែ និងស្ពានចំនួន ៨ សម្រាប់ប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ដែលមានប្រវែងសរុបជាង ៣,០០០គីឡូម៉ែត្រ។ចុះតើសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកវិញធ្លាប់បានជួយធ្វើអ្វីខ្លះដល់កម្ពុជាសម្រាប់វិស័យមួយនេះ? ចិនបានជួយកសាងស្ថានីយវារីអគ្គិសនីទាំងអស់នៅកម្ពុជា (ស្មើនឹង ៨០%នៃសមត្ថភាពផលិតថាមពលអគ្គិសនី ដែលមានដំណើរការនៅកម្ពុជា)។ ចុះតើសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកបានធ្វើអ្វីខ្លះដែរ?

Read More …

Japan Should Stop Acting Like China in Cambodia

Japan Should Stop Acting Like China in Cambodia

Tokyo is fighting a losing battle for Hun Sen’s support, and selling its own legacy in the democratization of Cambodia short. Published in The Diplomat

Brad Adams, Asia Director, Teppei Kasai Program Officer, Asia Division

2013_Cambodia_Shinzo
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at the ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan on October 10, 2013.
  © 2013 Reuters

In a dimly lit ballroom at a Tokyo luxury hotel, Sok Chenda Sophea, the secretary general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia and the minister attached to Prime Minister Hun Sen, persistently asked about 200 Japanese businesspeople to invest in Cambodia.

“Cambodia is not mini-China, come [visit],” Sophea said at the Cambodian Investment Forum on March 5. Sophea’s 30-minute speech mentioned everything from special economic zones to Japanese Overseas Development Assistance.

But Cambodia’s major crackdown on dissent and its ban on the main opposition party before last year’s election were not on his agenda. When questioned by Human Rights Watch about whether the Cambodian government has concrete strategies to ensure rights protections for the Cambodian people amid a growing number of foreign investments and development projects, Sophea dodged the question.

“I’m sorry to say, but we’re in a business seminar,” Sophea said, apparently not concerned that illegal land confiscation for business projects and the abuse of workers are among the country’s biggest rights problems.

Japan has been important to Cambodia, for decades its largest aid donor and one of its largest foreign investors. Now, with China surpassing Japan in both areas, the Japanese government appears willing to throw its principles out the window to compete with China for Hun Sen’s affections.

Given Hun Sen’s dictatorial and violent record, this is a contest that Japan can’t – and shouldn’t want to — win.

Despite Sophea’s denials, in recent years, Hun Sen, who has held power for 34 years, and Chinese President Xi Jinping have been inseparable. They kicked off 2019 by striking a deal involving what Hun Sen described as a Chinese grant of nearly $600 million and a pledge to import 400,000 tons of Cambodian rice. The two agreed on a target of $10 billion in bilateral trade by 2023.

The deal was topped off by smaller investments and loans, including an agreement from China to provide a bodyguard compound for Cambodia’s Council of Ministers. This is very worrisome, given that Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit has long been responsible for bloody attacks on the prime minister’s critics, including an infamous 1997 grenade attack on a political demonstration by the then-leader of the opposition, Sam Rainsy.

For Xi Jinping and Hun Sen, it was business as usual. Since the 1998 demise of the Khmer Rouge, which China helped propel to power, leading to the deaths of as many as 2 million Cambodians, China has poured billions of dollars into Cambodia in loans, aid, and investments. By 2010, China became Cambodia’s largest foreign donor, though much of its aid is in loans that Cambodia may never be able to repay. In 2018, China accounted for nearly half of Cambodia’s $6 billion foreign debt.

Presiding over a one-party state at home, the Chinese government doesn’t have to consider public opinion when supporting dictatorships or account for the expenditure of its funds. It can bribe officials with impunity. Things are different in Japan.  

This has left Japan in a bind. Despite the worsening climate for human rights in Cambodia, Japan still shies away from open and clear criticism, while continuing to provide large amounts of aid and staging high-level visits, all to charm the deeply unpopular Hun Sen.

But Japan is fighting a losing battle for Hun Sen’s support. Japan can’t outspend China or deliver sweetheart contracts to Cambodia, yet its overt and clumsy attempts to ingratiate itself have led to a backlash among Cambodian activists, who see Tokyo selling out democracy and human rights to maintain a friendship with a dictator. Activists see this “values free” Japanese diplomacy contributing to the seemingly irreversible decline of democratic values in Cambodia.

That became increasingly apparent in the lead-up to the July 2018 Cambodian national elections. Fearing defeat, the government dissolved the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), kicked out its members of parliament, and imposed a five-year political ban on 118 of its senior members. Hun Sen also cracked down on independent media outlets, journalists, and independent organizations promoting the rule of law, democracy, and human rights.

Read More …

Is Cambodia’s Koh Kong project for Chinese tourists – or China’s military?

Is Cambodia’s Koh Kong project for Chinese tourists – or China’s military?

  • A tourism development by the Chinese firm Union Development Group looks too good to be true
  • Sceptics say it is – and that its suspiciously long airport runway and deep water port will give China a military foothold in the country

សង្ខេបអត្ថបទជាភាសាខ្មែរ៖ អត្ថបទនេះបញ្ជាក់ពីបំណងរបស់ចិនក្នុងការអភិវឌ្ឍន៌ដីសម្បទាសេដ្ឋកិច្ចអោយក្រុមហ៊ុនឯកជនចិនចំនួន៤៥០០០ហិចតាថាជាចេតនាបង្កើតមូលដ្ឋានទ័ពរបស់ចិនក្នុងការទប់ស្កាត់និងវាយលុកករណីចិនតៃវ៉ាន់ ជំលោះប្រជុំកោះស្ព្រែតលីឈូងសមុទ្រចិនខាងត្បូង និងការដឹកជញ្ជូនថាមពលធំបំផុតរបស់ចិនតាមច្រកមា៉ឡាកា។ ភស្តុតាងមានដូចជា៖ ១. រូបថតផ្លូវចំណតយន្តហោះខ្នាតធំប្រវែង៣៤០០ម៉ែតដែលហួសពីការវិនិយោគជាកាសុីណូនិងអូតែល ២. ច្បាប់សម្បទានដីរបស់កម្ពុជាមិនអនុញ្ញាតអោយទំហំធំបែបនេះទេ ៣. ទំហំដីសម្បទាននេះអាចលាតសន្ធឹងលើសួនឧទ្យានជាតិដែលហាមឃាត់ ៤. តំបន់នេះជាចំណុចខ្លាញ់ភូមិសាស្ត្រនយោបាយរបស់ចិន ៥. ហ៊ុន-សែនអាចជាមនុស្សម្នាក់គត់ដែលបានអនុមត្តិគំរោងនេះអោយចិន ៦. ក្នុងរយៈពេលតែ២ខែផ្លូវចតយន្តហោះខ្នាតធំត្រូវបានគេធ្វើរួចដែលអាចចំណាយទុនមហាសាល ៧. ចិនបានធ្លាប់ច្បាមយកកំពង់ផែសិរីលង្កា ឡាវ ភូមា និងប៉ាគីស្ថាន ៨. ចុងក្រោយចិននឹងប្រើលេសថាជាកំពង់ផែក្រោមក្របខណ្ឌអង្គការសហប្រជាជាតិប៉ុន្តែខ្លួនជាអ្នកគ្រប់គ្រងទាំងស្រុង។

Andrew Nachemson  , Op-Ed: South China Morning Post (SCMP)

This Week in Asia: Is Cambodia’s Koh Kong project for Chinese tourists – or China’s military?

A satellite image of the suspiciously long runway at the airport in Koh Kong. Photo: Handout
A satellite image of the suspiciously long runway at the airport in Koh Kong. Photo: Handout

It’s only natural that Beijing might show an interest in a tourism development that aims to lure big-spending Chinese tourists to the shores of Cambodia with the promise of casinos, golf courses and luxury resorts.

After all, Cambodia granted 45,000 hectares of its prime real estate in Koh Kong province – and 20 per cent of its coastline – to private Chinese company Union Development Group, just so it could build this supposed tourism Mecca, and all for a peppercorn rent that will start at just US$1 million per year.

At least, that’s the official version. But sceptics who say the terms of this deal are too good to be true think there’s another reason for China’s interest: they believe the development is as much about welcoming the Chinese military as it is about Chinese tourists.

Such scepticism has grown louder recently, with the release of satellite images from the European Space Agency showing that the runway for the site’s airport is far longer than is required for civilian aircraft.

‘They only go to Chinese shops’: why Cambodia’s influx of mainland tourists is causing tensions

Cambodian officials have already been at pains to deny that the project’s deep water port could serve Chinese military interests, so questions over the runway have only fuelled claims that the development serves a dual purpose.

“The runway is about 3,400 meters long, which is larger than the international airport in Phnom Penh and could accommodate any plane in the Chinese air force,” said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

សាលាឃុំភ្ញីមាស ត្រូវបោះបង់ចោល ទុកដីឲ្យចិនអភិវឌ្ឍន៍
Courtesy: Dr. Lao Mong Hay

“It is also in a rather secluded location for such a large airport if it were for civilian purposes. The only thing nearby would be the Koh Kong casino/resort project, which as I understand it hasn’t seen much success so far,” Poling said. Reports says construction work at the Koh Kong project has been stalled for months.

As to whether the project is intended for military use, Poling said there was “a lot of smoke but no fire”, but he added: “if there is any country in Southeast Asia where the Chinese might be able to gain a rotational military presence, it would be Cambodia”.

Sceptical: US Vice-President Mike Pence is concerned the Koh Kong project has a military use. Photo: AFP
Sceptical: US Vice-President Mike Pence is concerned the Koh Kong project has a military use. Photo: AFP

The satellite images suggest there was a flurry of construction on the runway after US Vice-President Mike Pence delivered a letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in November, expressing concern that the project had a military use.

Most of the runway was completed in just two months and it is significantly larger than the Federal Aviation Administration’s recommendation of 2,800 metres for a Boeing 787-900.

Union Development Group may be a private Chinese company, but the development has long been suspected of having government connections.

Zhang Gaoli, the former vice-premier of China and chairman of the leading group for Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, backed the project from the beginning, presiding over the signing of the agreement between UDG and Cambodia. The project has also received multiple visits from other Chinese Communist Party figures, including Wang Qinmin, vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Japan plays China’s game in Cambodia. Hun Sen wins

And as a private venture, many question the viability of its bottom line. As another Western military expert put it: “The scale of the development by China’s Union Development Group appears inconsistent with the commercial potential of the area, raising questions about its financial viability and sustainability, possible dual-use and military applications, as well as the ultimate intent of involved stakeholders.”

SOUND FAMILIAR?

Cambodian Defence Ministry spokesman Chum Socheat could not be reached despite repeated attempts, while government spokesman Phay Siphan said he had “no idea” whether the Cambodian government had any oversight of the project.

However, Paul Chambers, a regional analyst at Naresuan University, previously told This Week in Asia that senior Cambodian officials privately admitted that Hun Sen was considering approving a Chinese naval base there.

Chambers likened the Koh Kong project to Chinese projects in Laos and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka handed over control of its Hambantota Port to China on a 99-year lease after it became unable to meet its debt obligations to Beijing, which had financed its construction.

Controversial: the Chinese controlled port in Hambantota, Sri Lanka. Photo: AFP
Controversial: the Chinese controlled port in Hambantota, Sri Lanka. Photo: AFP

“In Sri Lanka’s case, over-dependency on China forced Sri Lanka to simply give that facility to the Chinese. The same could easily happen here in Cambodia,” he said.

Read More …

Cambodia, China to Kick Off Annual Joint Military Exercise Amid Waning Western Influence

Cambodia, China to Kick Off Annual Joint Military Exercise Amid Waning Western Influence

Op-Ed: Radio Free Asia Khmer

2019-02-27

Cambodia's Defence Minister Tea Banh (L) speaks to China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe (2nd L) during a visit to a military exhibition in Phnom Penh, June 19, 2018.

Cambodia’s Defence Minister Tea Banh (L) speaks to China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe (2nd L) during a visit to a military exhibition in Phnom Penh, June 19, 2018.AFP

Cambodia and China will kick off preparations for their third annual joint “Golden Dragon” military exercise on Feb. 28, Cambodia’s National Defense Ministry announced Wednesday, highlighting improved ties between the two countries as Western influence in the Southeast Asian nation wanes.

In a post to his Facebook account, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Chhum Socheat said that more than 250 Chinese and 2,500 Cambodian military personnel will attend the drill, held at the Chum Kiri Military Shooting Range Training Field in Kampot province’s Chum Kiri district.

After two weeks of rehearsals, the 15-day exercise will begin with a March 13 opening ceremony attended by Royal Cambodian Armed (RCAF) Commander-in-chief General Vong Pisen and end with a March 27 closing ceremony overseen by Defense Minister General Tea Banh, the post said.

“This military exercise reflects the government’s stance that the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces implement the national defense policy between Cambodia and China and for cooperation in all sectors,” Chhum Socheat said.

“This drill will also focus on exchanging experience in humanitarian and natural disaster rescue operations, as well as combatting terrorism and peacekeeping.”

According to Chhum Socheat, the exercise will involve “important military equipment” including armored trucks, tanks, and helicopters, as well as artillery and mortars.

This year’s Golden Dragon exercise is the third and largest joint Cambodia-China military drills to be held on Cambodian soil since Cambodia’s Defense Ministry abruptly suspended annual “Angkor Sentinel” joint exercises with the U.S. military and abandoned counter-terrorism training exercises with the Australian military in 2017.

The government had claimed it was too busy preparing security for commune elections in June last year to take part in the exercises, but they have yet to be reestablished.

Read More …

US, China Face Off Over Legacy in Cambodia

US, China Face Off Over Legacy in Cambodia


“China supported the Khmer Rouge during the 1970-1975 war and was the sole critical supporter throughout the 1975-1979 Democratic Kampuchea period of genocide. With Chinese money and support, Pol Pot carried out the period of murder, starvation and brutality.” – Said Elizabeth Becker

ចិនគាំទ្រខ្មែរក្រហមក្នុងកំឡុងសង្គ្រាមឆ្នាំ១៩៧០-១៩៧៥ ហើយជាអ្នកគាំទ្រសំខាន់តែមួយគត់ក្នុងរវាងឆ្នាំ១៩៧៥-១៩៧៩នៃរបបប្រលៃពូជសាសន៌កម្ពុជាប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ។ ជាមួយថវិការនិងការគាំទ្ររបស់ចិន ប៉ុល-ពតប្រតិបត្តិការវាលពិឃាត ទុរភិកអត់ឃ្លាន និងឃោរឃៅព្រៃផ្សៃ។ – ដោយអេលីសាបុិត បែកខើរ

Op-Ed: VOA Khmer

February 09, 2019 10:40 PM


FILE - A man cleans a skull near a mass grave at the Chaung Ek torture camp run by the Khmer Rouge in this undated photo. The last surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime were convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes Nov. 16 by an international tribunal.
FILE – A man cleans a skull near a mass grave at the Chaung Ek torture camp run by the Khmer Rouge in this undated photo. The last surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime were convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes Nov. 16 by an international tribunal.

 PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA  — 

Almost half a century ago, the U.S.-backed Gen. Lon Nol led a coup in March 1970, overthrowing Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihanouk while the monarch visited Moscow.

Sihanouk took refuge in Beijing until 1975, when brutal Khmer Rouge guerrillas leading a resistance movement against Lon Nol’s Khmer Republic captured Phnom Penh on April 17 and took over the country.

Sihanouk initially supported the Khmer Rouge regime and was installed as head of state by the communists but resigned in 1976. He spent the rest of the regime as a de facto prisoner of the Khmer Rouge, which wreaked havoc on the country, killing or starving to death an estimated 1.7 million people from 1975 to 1979.

FILE- Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk in Vichy, Jan. 11, 1980. Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk, whose life mirrored the turbulent history of his nation where he remained a revered figure, died in Beijing, Oct. 15, 2012, at the age of 89.
FILE- Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihanouk in Vichy, Jan. 11, 1980. Cambodia’s former King Norodom Sihanouk, whose life mirrored the turbulent history of his nation where he remained a revered figure, died in Beijing, Oct. 15, 2012, at the age of 89.

Echoes of the Cold War

Today, that sequence of events reverberates in a diplomatic face-off in Phnom Penh that echoes the Cold War even as it has gone viral in Cambodia. The online skirmish began when the U.S. Embassy posted a statement on its Facebook page, Jan. 30, saying the Khmer Rouge “ignorantly depended on a superpower,” an apparent reference to China. The embassy later issued comments claiming Washington was not involved in the coup led by Lon Nol that ousted Sihanouk.

“Instead, there is a lot of evidence showing that [the] Chinese government actively supported [the] Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 and after that,” read a post by the U.S. Embassy.

In response, the Chinese Embassy posted a statement on its Facebook page, Feb. 1, mocking the idea that the coup “was not related to the U.S., but the CIA.”

Elizabeth Becker, author of When the War was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution, said the current tit-for-tat was “a distorted argument started by the Hun Sen government.”

“The subject is too serious for these propaganda potshots,” she wrote VOA Khmer in an email. “Both China and the U.S. have blood on their hands.”

FILE - A photo taken in the 1970 outside of Cambodia, shows China's chairman Mao Ze Dong, left, greeting top Khmer Rouge official Ieng Sary, right, also known as " brother number three," while Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, center, looks on.
FILE – A photo taken in the 1970 outside of Cambodia, shows China’s chairman Mao Ze Dong, left, greeting top Khmer Rouge official Ieng Sary, right, also known as ” brother number three,” while Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, center, looks on.

War of words

Chheang Vannarith, president of the Asian Vision Institute (AVI), an independent think tank based in Phnom Penh, said the current war of words is another indication that the U.S.-China competition in Cambodia will continue to intensify.

“I think Cambodia has become the proxy of U.S.-China geopolitical rivalry,” he said in an email. “The winner writes history. It is … real politics.”

Meas Nee, a political analyst who holds a doctorate in sociology and international social work from La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, said Cambodia should be cautious of falling into a trap if a new Cold War emerges.

“Those two superpowers can take advantage” of a vulnerable country like Cambodia, he said, adding that Phnom Penh’s closeness with Beijing makes it unlikely to take a stand. China is Cambodia’s largest aid donor.

Although many consider the U.S. involvement to be a matter of historical record, Emily Zeeberg, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman, told VOA Khmer that there was “no evidence that the United States was involved in the coup that brought Lon Nol to power.”

FILE - President Lon Nol in Cambodia in 1972.
FILE – President Lon Nol in Cambodia in 1972.

“The United States has addressed its war legacy by long-standing and substantial efforts for humanitarian demining and removing unexploded ordnance (UXO), including the removal of hundreds of thousands of Chinese-made mines, which have injured and killed people for decades,” she said in an email.

“We hope the Chinese government will acknowledge its legacy in Cambodia and make amends to all the Cambodians its policies affected,” Zeeberg added.

Repeated efforts to reach the Chinese Embassy in Cambodia were unsuccessful.

Phay Siphan, a Cambodian government spokesman, could not be reached for comment.

Cambodia’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement issued last week that Cambodia had suffered from a civil war that arose from “a coup supported by United States in 1970.”

“Cambodia doesn’t want to see the same history, as Cambodia has full peace,” it read.

‘Supporting the Khmer Rouge’

Sophal Ear, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College at Los Angeles, said: “It looks like the U.S. Embassy simply reminded Cambodia of who was supporting the Khmer Rouge at their height of power-1975-1979.”

“Indeed, with the withdrawal of the U.S., the Khmer Republic collapsed,” he added.

Read More …

China-Cambodia Military Fears in the Headlines with New US Intelligence Report

China-Cambodia Military Fears in the Headlines with New US Intelligence Report
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, seen here at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in September 2013 before departing for the opening of the 10th China-ASEAN exhibition (CAEXPO) in Nanning, China. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)Image Credit: AP Photo

China-Cambodia Military Fears in the Headlines with New US Intelligence Report

A closer look at recent headlines about Beijing’s growing military presence in the Southeast Asian state and their wider significance.

Op-Ed: The Diplomat

By Prashanth Parameswara February 05, 2019       

Last week, the suggestion that Cambodia could move towards changing its constitution to facilitate growing Chinese military presence in the country led to another series of headlines about Beijing’s rising influence in the Southeast Asian state. While such worries are far from new, their continued articulation by U.S. officials reinforces the extent of the concern around such developments as well as the wider trends that they represent within the Indo-Pacific.

The entrance to Kratie University flanked with Chinese and Cambodian flags in a photo posted on Facebook last week.

As I have noted previously in these pages, while the idea of a deepening Chinese military presence in Cambodia under Prime Minister Hun Sen is far from new, there has been increased attention to this as both sides have been stepping up their defense ties and amid wider concerns including rising Chinese economic and security presence in Southeast Asia and setbacks to democracy in the region.

A case in point was late last year where we saw the latest round of public scrutiny on the notion of a Chinese naval base in Cambodia tied to a controversial, ongoing port project, with U.S. officials directly raising the issue with Cambodia. As I noted in an evaluation of these concerns, even though specifics may remain unclear for now in the public domain, these fears are not entirely unfounded given some of the developments we have already seen in recent years.

Last week, the fears of China’s growing military presence surfaced again following the release of this year’s iteration of the Worldwide Treat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, a collective report produced by 17 separate U.S. agencies. Several media outlets picked up on the fact that in his statement for the record for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence dated January 29, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats had mentioned that Cambodia’s slide toward autocracy “opens the way for a constitutional amendment that could lead to a Chinese military presence in the country.”

This then led to several headlines in Cambodia and internationally about those comments. Unsurprisingly, the Cambodian government reacted rather defensively as well, with the defense ministry rejecting the need for it to amend its constitution and even welcoming the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to seek the truth behind these issues.

Read More …

Hun Sen takes China to neutralize EBA but 40 private sectors in Cambodia pleas

In his facebook page, Hun Sen has appeared fragile walking and standing to greet China’s private sectors and official top leaders in Peking during his 4 days urgent visit (January 20-24, 2019) after EU announced to tax Cambodia rice export in 3 years beginning this January 2019 in which Cambodia enjoyed its free tax previous years. Cambodia could loss 40 millions dollar per year from this taxing. While Hun Sen is departing for China, the regular Cabinet meetings was cancelled with order to send only security documents to his office while Phnom Penh city was seen by tanks, military armours, and his personal body guard unit mobilizing in an excuse to prepare a drill. Spectators convinced that by ranking and bureaucratic regulation, whenever Hun Sen is absent, the next person is Sar Kheng who is able to conduct regular business of the governance but the Cabinet’s order is totally opposite.

Frequent updating in his personal facebook page with “likes” hike up over 10 millions is to describe his successes in 600 millions loan and buying rice 40,000 tones, Chinese FDI investments, and increasing importing products from Cambodia etc., while the mainstream China’s news, contradictory, confirming the Xi’s intention to strengthening Cambodia’s consent to broaden Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and shared future strategic partnership. Note that Cambodia delegates have failed to inspire China to import rice from Cambodia as China has already promised to import Thailand’s trillion tones of rice to feed its people.

In Cambodia, 40 private sectors wrote letter to EU to express their concerns on the economic crisis if EU withdraws EBA from Cambodia. And the ASIA-EU Ministerial Meeting delegated by Cambodia foreign minister Prak Sokhonn met negative responses from both Didier Reynders and Cecilia Malstrom by emphasizing restoring back democracy, rule of law, and human rights respect in Cambodia if EBA’s withdrawal scheme should be halted.

“[I was] in a bilateral interview [conversation] with my Cambodian counterpart in which I stressed the importance of restoring the rule of law and democracy in the country, which would deepen relations with the European Union,” 
Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders wrote.
“We discussed the EBA agreement and the possibility of a withdrawal of the tariff preferences. [We] reiterated our concerns on democracy, human rights and [the] rule of law. The EU continues to keep the path of dialogue open,”
EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom wrote.

Cambodia Faces Next Trade-Sanctions Move by the European Union

Op-Ed: Bloomberg

By Jonathan Stearns January 22, 2019, 8:59 AM PST Updated on January 22, 2019, 3:00 PM PST

  •  EU Commission seeks support from national capitals by Jan. 29
  •  Any decision to suspend tariff benefits still a year away

The European Union moved closer to imposing trade sanctions against Cambodia as a result of alleged human-rights violations in the country.

The European Commission in Brussels has asked EU national governments to give the green light by Jan. 29 for suspending a policy that lets Cambodia export all goods except weapons duty-free and quota-free to the bloc, according to two officials familiar with the matter. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are private.

Any go-ahead from EU national capitals would still leave a decision by the commission, the bloc’s executive arm, 12 months away. At stake is Cambodia’s place in the EU’s “Everything But Arms” initiative, the most generous part of the bloc’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences for poor countries around the world.

The EU’s Tariff Threats Against Asia’s Autocrats Risk Backfiring

The EU is trying to prod changes in the political behavior of strongman Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen while being wary of damaging the country’s economy, where a $5 billion garment industry employs 750,000 people and is the biggest exporter.

Hun Sen, who extended his 33-year rule last July when his party won a boycotted election, has so far struck a defiant tone with the European side.

The latest internal EU preparations to withdraw commercial benefits for Cambodia follow a Jan. 21 meeting between European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn. The Everything But Arms — or EBA — accord featured in the talks.

“We discussed the EBA agreement and the possibility of a withdrawal of the tariff preferences,” Malmstrom said in a Twitter post after the meeting in the Belgian capital. “Reiterated our concerns on democracy, human rights and rule of law. The EU continues to keep the path of dialog open.”

The EU debate over revoking general trade benefits for Cambodia is separate from a decision by the bloc last week to impose tariffs on Cambodian rice for three years as a result of a surge in imports deemed to have hurt European rice producers.

— With assistance by Nikos Chrysoloras

Greater Sino-Cambodian effort sought for Belt, Road

Op-Ed: China Daily

By AN BAIJIE | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-22 01:28

President Xi Jinping meets with Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen at the  Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Monday. Xi said bilateral relations have developed at a high level. PANG XINGLEI / XINHUA

China and Cambodia should speed up connecting the Belt and Road Initiative with Cambodia’s development strategy, President Xi Jinping said on Monday.

Read More …

Are China’s gifts a blessing or a curse for Cambodia?

Are China’s gifts a blessing or a curse for Cambodia?

Author: Pheakdey Heng, Enrich Institute

—–

The entrance to Kratie University flanked with Chinese and Cambodian flags in a photo posted on Facebook last week.

The entrance to Kratie University flanked with Chinese and Cambodian flags in a photo posted on Facebook last week.

China’s growing dominance is met with equally growing concern in Cambodia. Despite the economic gains, too much dependence on China comes with significant commitment and risk. Reliance on China’s aid may induce Cambodia to fall into a debt trap, resulting in a loss of autonomy as a sovereign state and the deterioration of its relations with other ASEAN member states.

The lack of transparency and accountability of China’s projects is also causing social and environmental challenges in Cambodia. Criticism that Chinese companies are racing to exploit Cambodia’s resources while paying little regard to international best development practices are common among civil society actors.

The Kamchay dam, the first large-scale Chinese investment project in Cambodia, is a telling example. The dam destroyed 2000 hectares of productive forest, threatened animal species, lowered water quality and negatively affected the livelihood of local communities.

Chinese firm Union Development was awarded a concession of nearly 40,000 hectares — almost four times the amount allowed under Cambodian law — to develop a multi-billion dollar tourism hub in Cambodia’s Koh Kong province. Human rights groups allege that fishermen who had lived in the area for generations were summarily evicted, taken inland and told that they were now farmers.

Chinese investment in Cambodia’s real estate market is almost exclusively aimed at the Cambodian upper class, as well as Chinese tourists and businessmen. This is driving market prices up, making housing unaffordable for most Cambodians.

Chinese investment is also transforming Sihanoukville, once Cambodia’s premier seaside resort, into a bustling casino town. The unprecedented surge in Chinese tourists and casino development in Sihanoukville is benefitting a small group Cambodia’s rich elite, but many other Cambodians are being driven out of the area by the skyrocketing cost of living.

Even though Chinese investment is bringing wealth to Cambodia, this wealth is mainly kept within Cambodia’s Chinese community. Chinese residents and visitors in Cambodia buy from Chinese businesses, eat in Chinese restaurants and stay in Chinese hotels. The trickle-down effect to local businesses is minimal.

China’s economic power and influence can be a source for sustainable development in Cambodia, but for this to happen requires strong leadership from both countries. Both sides must make concerted efforts to promote transparency, accountability and inclusiveness in development projects.

Shared responsibility and multi-stakeholder partnership should be the guiding principles of foreign investment in Cambodia to ensure that Chinese investment and aid contributes to Cambodia’s economic, social and environmental progress in the long run.

Read the entire article at AsiaForum

Cambodia and China: Rewriting (and Repeating) History

Op-Ed: The Diplomat 

A lot has changed in 40 years — but not everything.

Chana's Premier Li Keqiang, center, shakes hands with his counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, second from left, of Vietnam,  Prayuth Chan-o-cha, left, of Thailand, Hun Sen, second from right, of Cambodia, and Thongloun Sisolith, right, of Laos, before an opening of the 2nd Mekong Lancang Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting, in   Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Leaders of nations along Southeast Asia's Mekong River gather Wednesday in the Cambodian capital amid a push by China to build more dams that are altering the water flow and have raised environmental concerns. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Chana’s Premier Li Keqiang, center, shakes hands with his counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, second from left, of Vietnam, Prayuth Chan-o-cha, left, of Thailand, Hun Sen, second from right, of Cambodia, and Thongloun Sisolith, right, of Laos, before an opening of the 2nd Mekong Lancang Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Leaders of nations along Southeast Asia’s Mekong River gather Wednesday in the Cambodian capital amid a push by China to build more dams that are altering the water flow and have raised environmental concerns. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Like Pol Pot before him, Hun Sen has now pinned his political longevity on China, which again looks out at a visage of hostile powers across Asia as it seeks to rise to the status of the regional hegemon, and celebrates having a strong ally in Phnom Penh.

The Soviet threat is gone, but Hun Sen’s cantankerous political attacks on all things American in Cambodia, which has tied him to the Chinese for support, might be viewed in much the same way as Pol Pot’s attacks on Vietnam: it’s me, or a pawn of China’s great power rival du jour. 

Though Hun Sen never specified the precise hue of the “color revolution” brewing against him by Cambodia’ popular opposition party as he dismantled the country’s 25-year-old UN-built democracy late last year, his targets both in the opposition and in fragile civil society had a distinct American accent.

The 24-year-old U.S.-owned English-language newspaper-of-record, The Cambodia Daily, was forced to close — but not the Australian-owned Phnom Penh Post. Gone too were radio programs from the U.S.-run Voice of America and Radio Free Asia — along with two of their reporters, who were imprisoned for “espionage” — but not those of Radio France International.

Gone, even, was U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute — even as Germany’s Konrad Adanaeur Institute, which had been actively working with the opposition to develop policies, was left untouched. The message to China would have been clear.

Hun Sen is only the latest in a long line of Cambodian leaders to bank his leadership’s long-term survival and his legacy on the rise of China as the regional power.

Pol Pot, too, was not the first.

King Norodom Sihanouk, the father of Cambodia’s 1953 independence, also moved sharply toward China’s influence late in his rule. He went as far as to sever diplomatic ties with the U.S. in 1965, believing that the future in Asia was with China.

Pol Pot and King Sihanouk were notably both thwarted by competing interests from within their regimes — a pro-U.S. faction represented by the coup leader Lon Nol for Sihanouk in March 1970, and a pro-Vietnamese faction, with Hun Sen among the leaders, in the case of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in January 1979.

Hun Sen may well yet prove to have bested both for timing in the China gambit. Yet as a self-proclaimed life-long student of history and geopolitics, he would be forgiven for looking around his party with apprehension.

Continue to read more….

Cambodia Wants China as Its Neighborhood Bully

Op-Ed: Foreign Policy

Cambodia Wants China as Its Neighborhood Bully

Cambodia Wants China as Its Neighborhood Bully

In the closing months of 2016, all of Southeast Asia seemed to be pivoting toward China. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was hailed as a “visionary leader” by fellow Malaysian politicians for “tilting to China.” Thailand agreed to build an arms-maintenance and production center for China’s People’s Liberation Army, and the president of the Philippines declared in a speech delivered in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People: “In this venue I announce my separation from the United States.”

Americans have been left to ask: What did we do wrong? What has caused the leaders of Southeast Asia to turn away from Washington and toward Beijing? It is tempting to look for the answer to these questions in the policies of the Obama or Xi administrations, or blame it on shifting fortunes in the balance of power. But focusing on the spectacle of Sino-American rivalry masks the dozens of smaller dramas and power plays that usually escape the attention of Western observers. Often it is these smaller conflicts of interest that drive lesser powers into the arms of the great ones.

There is no better example of this than Cambodia, one of the first countries in the region to openly align itself with China. Cambodia’s position became clear in 2012, when it prevented ASEAN from issuing a joint communiqué that mentioned the South China Sea. Long-standing Cambodian dictator Hun Sen has reaped many rewards for this decision: In October, China granted Cambodia $237 million in direct aid, $90 million in canceled debt, and an additional $15 million in military support. Yet there is more behind Cambodian support for China than the size of Beijing’s pocketbook. In the minds of many Cambodians, the most difficult geopolitical challenge facing their country is not balancing the demands of the United States and China, but managing its relationship with Vietnam, an undertaking that cannot be successful without Chinese cooperation.

Ethnic disharmony is not hard to spot in Southeast Asia, but few of its prejudices — outside of the Myanmese hatred toward the Rohingya, at least — can match the distrust and disgust the average Khmer feels toward the Vietnamese. Recall how conservative Americans talked about the Soviet Union at the height of communist power, add the way their counterparts in modern Europe discuss Arab immigration now, and then throw in a dash of the humiliation that marked Germany in interwar years, and then you might come close to getting a fair idea of how wild and vitriolic a force anti-Vietnamese rhetoric is in Cambodian politics.

Cambodians have not forgotten the centuries of warfare that led Vietnamese armies to pillage the Khmer heartland and strip away more than half of its territory. Cambodian nationalists still pine for Khmer krom (“Lower Khmer”), a term used to describe both the ethnic Khmer living outside Cambodia and the lands they inhabit.

Without the intervention of the French in the 1860s, which transformed Cambodia into a French protectorate and southern Vietnam into a French colony, Cambodia would have been totally swallowed by the Vietnamese maw. French imperialism brought peace, but not harmony: Relations between the two groups only worsened under colonial control, as the French gave the Vietnamese a privileged status, and imperial policy supported Vietnamese migration to the Cambodian heartland. The subsequent governments that came to power in post-colonial times — the Sisowath, Lon Nol, and Khmer Rouge regimes — relied on anti-Vietnamese rhetoric to legitimize their rule to the Cambodian people.

Historically informed Cambodians are quick to point out that the Khmer Rouge was a creation of the Viet Cong; the more conspiratorial of their countrymen insist that the Khmer Rouge’s massacres were directed by them as well. Conspiratorial or not, Cambodians remember that 150,000 Vietnamese soldiers invaded Cambodia in 1978 and then occupied their country as foreign conquerors for the next 10 years. Though that decade-long war was not entirely the fault of the Vietnamese (China, Thailand, and the United States would support their own armed proxies), the violence of Vietnam’s counterinsurgency operations slowly eroded what goodwill they had earned by removing the Khmer Rouge from power.

Read More …

Machiavelli’s Lessons Cambodia approaches China, leaving the United States in the dust. Can it retain its freedom?

Comment: The author has well balanced his argument on choice Cambodia made with China in its foreign policy that can tip the navy of this nation if the policy shifted too much towards China without aligning with USA, ASEAN member states, and other super countries. The author academically termed “alignment” not “alliance” for Cambodia to strengthening tie with China. What author has missed out the important parts is the two pragmatic factors: the Cambodia constitution and lesson learnt during the Khmer Rouge regime.

First, Cambodia constitution firmly claims that Cambodia is a neutral nation state and non-alignment. Cambodia is friendly to all outside nation states. No other state(s) can use Cambodia as their military base or influencing site for their advantage etc.

Second, China supported the Khmer Rouge, and Cambodian people have been bitterly suffered. USA also supported the Khmer Rouge. But aids from USA to the Khmer Rouge were used by someone there, we don’t know who? China’s aids to Khmer Rouge were also used by someone there, we don’t know who? But the usage of those aids within Khmer Rouge cadres tended to destroy their cadres, not to save their company at all, not mention about using those aids to support the nation. Are these unknown users are supper secrete? May be not at all. Before Khmer Rouge turned 90 degree to China, KR was under supervision of Vietnam (North Vietnam or Vietminh, critically). This is the truth of history, undeniably.

Now, Hun Sen (head) has aligned or turned 90 degrees to China, should the old trauma haunt Cambodia again? No one know. But Khmer people nationwide have been vigilant on their political vision that “Head goes to China while Body and Feet are strong with Vietnam“.

Machiavelli’s Lessons Cambodia approaches China, leaving the United States in the dust. Can it retain its freedom?

Op-Ed: The Diplomat

By Cheunboran Chanborey
August 11, 2015

Image Credit: Ari V/ Shutterstock.com

Image Credit: Ari V/ Shutterstock.com

As part of the United States’ ‘pivot’ to Asia, the Obama Administration has taken further steps to broaden engagement with Cambodia, primarily in response to China’s rapidly growing influence in the country and in the broader Lower Mekong region.

Diplomatically, U.S. high-level officials have started visiting Cambodia more frequently. For instance, in 2012, a series of U.S. leaders engaged with Cambodia’s leadership, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk—all this while Cambodia was hosting the ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ Meeting and other ASEAN-related meetings. Two major visits occurred earlier this year in Phnom Penh—the minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in March 2015, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Asia Pacific Daniel Russel in January. U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama also visited Cambodia in March 2015.

Militarily, the U.S. government has maintained a small but sustained level of engagement with the Cambodian military, which includes naval port visits, joint exercises, and military assistance. From 2007 to 2012, eight U.S. naval ships made port calls in Cambodia and engaged in joint military exercises with the Cambodian armed forces. Cambodia and the U.S. also jointly conducted the bilateral Angkor Sentinel peacekeeping exercises four years in the row, beginning in 2010. As of 2014, the U.S. allocated $0.45 million to an “International Military Education and Training” program to help Cambodian military officers with their English-language skills, leadership training, military professionalism, human rights awareness, and counterterrorism practices.

Economically, the U.S. is the largest foreign market for Cambodian goods, accounting for about half of the country’s garment exports—an industry that employs approximately 400,000 workers in the kingdom. Cambodia is also the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Myanmar. In 2014, the U.S. provided assistance worth $70.9 million, mostly to non-governmental organizations and humanitarian programs in Cambodia.

At the sub-regional level, the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI)—launched by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009—is a regional foreign assistance effort, amounting to $425 million for 2009-2011 period. It aims to help lower Mekong countries, such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, in the areas of agriculture and food security, connectivity, education, energy security, the environment and water management, and health. In 2014, the State Department provided an additional $14.3 million for the LMI.

Although the relationship has recently been strengthened, there are a number of impediments for Cambodia and the United States in developing deeper bilateral ties.

Trust Deficit Between Phnom Penh and Washington

Read More …

Analysts See Cambodia Bolstering Military Ties With China

Analysts See Cambodia Bolstering Military Ties With China

Neou Vannarin, July 21, 2015 4:48 PM

FILE - Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, second left, shakes hands with a Chinese army adviser during a graduation ceremony at the Army Institute in Kampong Speu province, March 12, 2015.

FILE – Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, second left, shakes hands with a Chinese army adviser during a graduation ceremony at the Army Institute in Kampong Speu province, March 12, 2015.

Cambodia is strengthening its military ties with China, and analysts say it is likely to continue doing so for the forseeable future.

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh made a five-day trip to China last week, meeting with high-ranking military officials and receiving pledges of assistance from the Chinese military.

In a recent interview, he told the VOA Khmer service that the visit was successful in bringing military cooperation between the countries even closer. That relationship is closer than Cambodia’s military ties with the U.S., he said.

Analysts say Phnom Penh is likely to look more and more to Beijing for support because of growing tensions with its old patron, Vietnam, over border issues.

Cambodia and China have traditionally enjoyed close relations, and they became noticeably closer after 2012 when Cambodia, as host of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, sided with China over the contentious South China Sea issue.

The following year, Beijing provided Phnom Penh with a $195 million loan, which bought 12 Chinese Z-9 military helicopters. In May of this year, China pledged military trucks, spare parts, equipment and unspecified chemicals.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has often touted the relationship. During the inauguration of a Chinese-funded road in Kampong Som province last month, he told a group of farmers that Cambodian-Chinese relations were at an all-time high, and that the two were moving toward a “comprehensive” partnership. China’s development fund for Cambodia for 2015 amounted to $140 million, up from $100 million the year before, he said.

Tea Banh defended the bilateral relationship, saying Chinese aid came with no strings attached and that China had never interfered in Cambodian affairs. He declined to disclose how much aid Cambodia would receive from his latest trip.

Benefits for China

Yet analysts warn that China is getting more out of the deal than Cambodia. Chheang Vannarith, a visiting professor at the University of Leeds in England, said China needs Cambodia as a partner in Southeast Asia, where competition is rising.

Read More …

Cambodia’s Strategic China Alignment

Cambodia’s Strategic China Alignment

A number of factors are driving Cambodia’s strategic convergence with China.
By Cheunboran Chanborey
July 08, 2015

The Diplomat

The Diplomat

According to conventional wisdom, the international system leaves small states less room for maneuver. Cambodia is no exception. Since the kingdom won its independence from France in 1953, it had been preoccupied with protecting that independence, as well as its sovereignty and territorial integrity. During the Cold War, Cambodian foreign policymakers  tried various approaches, from neutrality to alliances with major power(s) and, worst of all, isolationism. Yet Cambodia remained a victim of power politics, and ended up with a civil war and some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

Early in the 21st century, China has emerged as a regional and global power. China’s power and influence can be felt in all corners of the globe, most evidently in continental Southeast Asia. In this context, the Cambodia-China bilateral relationship has experienced a remarkable transformation over the last decade or so. Although rooted in mistrust due to the involvement of China in Cambodia’s civil war and social strife, especially Beijing’s support for the Khmer Rouge regime, bilateral ties have noticeably consolidated and improved since 1997.
In December 2010, the two countries upgraded their bilateral ties to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Cooperation.’ Cambodia continues to attach great economic and strategic importance to China’s rise.
Economically, China plays an increasingly important role in the socio-economic development of Cambodia as its primary trading partner, largest source of foreign direct investment, and top provider of development assistance and soft loans. Noticeably, two-way trade between Cambodia and China grew from $2.34 billion in 2012 to around $3.3 billion in 2013. Recently, the two countries agreed to boost their bilateral trade to reach the target of $5 billion by 2017. Similarly, Chinese investment in Cambodia in 2013 rose 65 percent, to $435.82 million compared to $263.59 million in 2012. More importantly, Chinese loans and grants to Cambodia reached $2.7 billion in 2012, making it one of the latter’s largest donors. Moreover, Cambodia will reap enormous benefits from new Chinese initiatives such as the Maritime Silk Road and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Militarily, China is the biggest source of assistance to Cambodia’s armed forces in various forms. In May 2012, Cambodia and China signed a military cooperation agreement in which China agreed to provide $17 million to Cambodia to build military hospitals and military training schools for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and promised to continue training military personnel in Cambodia. The latter is, according to Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh, a “great contribution to improving the Cambodian army’s capacity in national defense.” It is worth noting that Chinese military assistance increased remarkably at a time when Cambodia badly needed to build up its defense forces due to the increasingly tense border dispute with Thailand from 2008 to 2011.
Victim of Location
In geopolitical and strategic terms, Cambodia had been a victim of its location as a country sandwiched between two powerful and historically antagonistic neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam. The history of Cambodia vividly suggests that over the six hundred years following the fall of the Khmer Empire, Thailand and later Vietnam regularly defeated Khmer armies and annexed Khmer territories. The two countries had always attempted to impose their suzerainty over Cambodia. Cambodia’s acceptance of the French protectorate in 1863 was an escape from suzerainty.
The eruption of a border conflict with Thailand from 2008 to 2011 reminded Cambodian leaders that its stronger neighbors remain a security threat to the kingdom’s territorial integrity. It also prompted Cambodian leaders to rethink the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) role in maintaining peace and stability in the region. In fact, since becoming a member of ASEAN in 1999, the regional grouping has always been the cornerstone of Cambodia’s foreign policy. Cambodian policymakers were convinced that ASEAN would be a crucial regional platform through which their country could safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as promote its strategic and economic interests. However, it seems that Cambodia’s confidence in ASEAN has faded due to the grouping’s ineffective response to the Cambodia-Thailand border dispute.

Read More …