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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.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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/

Image Credit: Ari V/

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

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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.

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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.

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Cambodian leadership between US and China

Dr. Lao Mong HayWhile the Vietnamese government celebrated the 40th anniversary of Vietnamese unification between North and South on this April 30, 2015, Vietnamese leaders have eloquently contained the scheme that US has separated Vietnam; those Vietnamese leaders frequently termed American as  imperialist, or American hegemony during the post cold-war. This statement coincided with the prediction that Vietnam and China shall have no space to be doubtful on their diplomacy tie dis-aligned. Historically, China is the essential partner to help Vietnam unified. And another indisputable history is the Cambodia that opened space such as Ho Chi Minh trail to help Vietnam achieve their unification goal. But what Cambodian people are wishing to see their government’s uncontested role is to encourage Vietnamese government to say “thank you” to Cambodia for their unification at the same level that present Cambodian government leadership that has always said “thank you” to Vietnam that help Cambodia to stop Khmer Rouge brutality.

angkor sangrkan controversyAccording to political ideology, peace and war history, and economic cooperation etc. Vietnam cannot distance themselves from China at all. China and Vietnam have pursued political ideology of communism and neo-Marxist capitalism. Vietnam and China fought hand to hand against Nazism and Japanese militarism; recently Vietnam and China traveled to Russia to join the 70th anniversary of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War or WWII, and the economic cooperation especially the TPP project that Vietnam shall benefit a lot from it.

Above few findings can conclude that the Cambodia-Vietnam relations is remained strong even-though as Chair of ASEAN Cambodia reinforced its relations with China by neglecting Vietnam’s effort to instate multilateral resolution on behalf of ASEAN with China rather than bilateral one regarding the dispute on Spratly island. The assumption has also surprised everyone when Cambodia prime minister Hun Sen visited Vietnam while his leadership has been shaken by Cambodian people in 2013 election. His visiting happened during tension and protests to call him to step down; and he was publicly speaking Vietnamese to his Vietnamese audience regardless of diplomacy code of conduct he must abide by.

Below are some references of above description with their quote and link to the original complete articles and documents.

Phnom Penh cannot afford to be a Chinese proxy [3]. While China is of great economic interest to Cambodia, Vietnam is also vital to Cambodian security given the country’s geographical proximity. Balancing its foreign policy between China and Vietnam (and ASEAN as a whole) would be the wisest option for Cambodia. At the same time, the fiasco of the 2012 ASEAN summit should demonstrate to other ASEAN members the necessity of responding to the security concerns of its smaller members.

Cambodia’s betwixt and between foreign policy


As many will recall, for the first time in its 45-year history, the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 2012 failed to issue a joint communiqué [3] because of the failure of the ministers to achieve consensus on a common ASEAN position on issues involved in the South China Sea. The failure took place despite the fact that such a consensus had been worked out in the past and was again expressed in an ASEAN ministerial statement on the South China Sea a few days later. Many pointed to Chinese pressure on Cambodia as the main reason for this undeniable debacle.

The United States and ASEAN


In order to prevent Cambodia from choosing China over the US, Washington first needs to stop creating, and believing in the existence of, two distinct, contending, and mutually exclusive sides. The US should see China and Cambodia as two separate fronts. It should stop adjusting its Cambodia policy according to the level of Chinese engagement. If bilateral standoff is not the desired outcome, then trilateral cooperation is the only solution.

US-China-Cambodia Relations: The trilateral balance


 In 2014, Vietnam ranked 119th out of 175 countries in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perceptions, 126th on the World Bank’s Control of Corruption Index, and 74th on the International Country Risk’s Guide corruption rankings. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s top echelons have repeatedly warned that the country’s wealth widening wealth gap poses the most worrying threat to the survival of the political regime.

How the US continues to impact Vietnam 40 years on


The institute, established in 1999 around 80 km (50 miles) from Phnom Penh, is part of China’s rising military aid to Cambodia. Interviews with serving officers and a senior Cambodian government official shed light on how far the school’s influence has grown in recent years.

Military aid, alongside arms sales and billions of dollars of investment, have strengthened China’s ties with Cambodia, and analysts see it as part of a push to extend regional influence, including in the disputed South China Sea.

Chinese influence in Cambodia grows with army school, aid by Reuter


 Cambodia, like neighboring Myanmar and Laos, has been a major beneficiary of Beijing’s push in recent years to cultivate ties with developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. From 2006 to August 2012, Chinese companies invested more than $8.2 billion in Cambodia, besting second-placed South Korea’s $3.8 billion and the $924 million from American companies, according to the Cambodian Investment Board. Since 1992, Beijing has offered Cambodia $2.1 billion in aid and loans to fund agricultural development and the construction of more than 2,000 kilometers of roads and bridges, Chinese and Cambodian officials say.

U.S. Faces China Hurdle in Cambodia


There is no doubt that Cambodia needs China’s assistance to further its economic development. Likewise, China sees Cambodia as an important ally for exercising greater influence in Southeast Asia and counterbalancing the United States. Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guangxue recently said that the positive relationship China and Cambodia have built over the years serves as a role model of friendship between countries of different social systems. He is convinced that, with the careful guidance of its leaders and the efforts of its people, China and Cambodia can further deepen their mutual trust for one another and improve cooperation, so as to develop the relationship to a greater level.

Chinese investment and aid in Cambodia a controversial affair


The China-Russia relationship has been fruitful in the past. During the past two years, their heads of state have met eight times, reaching a series of important consensus on bilateral cooperation in all areas.

During their meeting in May, they are expected to add new content to bilateral ties and break new ground together, showing their relationship has entered a new development phase.

Xinhua: Xi’s visit to deepen, celebrate China-Russia relations


China has always offered instant rewards for displays of loyalty. When the Cambodian government sent 22 Uighur refugees back to China in 2009, the United States once again suspended aid to Cambodia as a retributive measure. China, on the other hand, pledged a total of US$1.2 billion two days after the incident. This generous gesture, however, does not necessarily guarantee that the money is indeed received, as some observers caution.

But looking beyond the ‘big old friend’ rhetoric, what’s in this relationship for China? The strings attached to China’s generosity are undoubtedly strong and many-stranded.

Why China charms Cambodia


The CPP still maintained a tight grip on power, and its leaders were wary of China given the troubling relations of the past. Only after 1997 did Cambodia-China relations began to improve. One possible explanation was that in the aftermath of the deadly clash in July 1997, it was clear that the CPP would be the dominant power in Cambodia’s politics once it had defeated and captured forces loyal to the royalist FUNCINPEC party.

This shifting balance of internal power may have made China realize that it had to revisit its past strategy and engage with the CPP’s leaders if it wanted to reinvigorate its crumbling diplomatic relations with Cambodia. As a result, China quickly emerged as one of Cambodia’s most important donors. More importantly, China’s long-standing policy of non-interference perfectly aligns with the interests of the ruling elites.

Besides financial support, China has also assisted Cambodia in strengthening its security forces, and has given millions of dollars worth of military equipment to its ally. For instance, in 2010, China agreed to give 257 military trucks and 50,000 uniforms to the Cambodian armed forces. In addition, China also provided 1,000 handguns and 50,000 bullets to the national police. These are just a few highlights of the military cooperation between the two countries.

In the aftermath of the July 2013 election, which the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) claims was plagued with massive irregularities, China was among a handful of countries that endorsed the CPP’s victory. During his visit to Cambodia in August 2013, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi promises the ruling elites that “China will firmly support Cambodia to prevent foreign disturbance.

Cambodia-China Relations: Overcoming the Trust Deficit


This is the first time Cambodia‘s leader has openlystated his position on the South China Sea issue.Cambodia has faced criticism for its handling of thematter during a meeting of the ASEAN countries in 2012.  Hun Sen said Cambodia should not be the onlycountry criticized for continued problems in the area.

After Cambodia, Brunei also could not find a solution;Myanmar failed as well. Now I am waiting to see ifMalaysia will be able to solve the problem,” said Hun Sen.

Cambodia Supports China’s Position on South China Sea


The military objective, in the long term, stands to make the greatest contribution to China’s national security. Cambodia sits in a critical geostrategic position, and China has since 1955 demonstrated an almost bewildering desire for access to Cambodia, whether the purpose was to counter US influence, to funnel supplies to North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, or to counter Vietnam. During the height of Sino-Cambodian relations, during the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge regime, PLA engineers supervised the slave-labor construction of an airfield at Kampong Chhnang that was (and is) capable of handling any aircraft in the world. Given that the Khmer Rouge had no air force and that the base included a command center built into a nearby mountain, the facility was clearly intended as a forward base for the PLA air force.

China’s Cambodia Strategy


But in Cambodia, a small band of historians has been clamoring for Beijing to acknowledge its role in one of the worst genocides in recent history.

In the 1970s, Mao wanted a client state in the developing world to match the Cold War influence of the United States and the Soviet Union. He found it in neighboring Cambodia. “To regard itself as rising power, China needed that type of accessory,” Andrew Mertha, author of “Brothers in Arms: China’s Aid to the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979,” said in an interview.

China Is Urged to Confront Its Own History


 Irritated Relations as a Reflection of the Global and Regional Politics

Initially, China might have come into contact with Cambodia in the context of Indochina. China‟s policy in Southeast Asia was to keep her southern neighbors in check and free from another challenging power. The Indochina Union was not only a geopolitical locality for theFrench colonization but also tacitly represented a block of Communist countries within whichVietnam was a team leader of the Indochina Communist Party. With a fear of the Soviet Union‟s influence in the region through a proxy of the Vietnamese
, China broke up the Indochinese Communist Party in the mid-
1950s in order to reduce Vietnam‟s domination in the block.

China to Cambodia: Don’t Mention the War

Only the Cambodian people shall fully affidavit the Chinese involvement in Cambodia politics, present and future.

China to Cambodia: Don’t Mention the War


China’s sledgehammer approach to diplomacy has won Beijing few friends in Southeast Asia. Its attitudes to maritime disputes in the South China Sea, massive land acquisitions by state-owned companies and its cash-for-influence strategyamong regional governments have all been the subject of unflattering headlines.

But expectations were raised when China’s top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng met with King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia and his mother, the former Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, in Beijing on April 17thwith observers expecting more than the usual bland diplomatic tidings.

That day was the 40th anniversary of the Chinese-backed, Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia.

In Phnom Penh commemorations were underway, including a dawn service at the Killing Fields, book launches, and seminars amid a school holiday and religious ceremonies for what ranks among the most intensely observed cultural days on the Khmer calendar.

“China will continue to pursue a friendly policy towards Cambodia, and work closely with the country to implement the consensus reached between both leaders and build a community of shared destinies,” Yu said. That was about all he said.

Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also conveyed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s greetings, according to the Xinhua news agency.

“Hailing the friendship between both countries, Yu said King Sihamoni has claimed the legacy of his father, late Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, to develop bilateral friendship and make new contribution to enhancing ties with China,” Xinhua reported in a dispatch dated April 17.

Sihamoni spent much the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge reign, essentially as a prisoner, in the royal palace after his father Norodom Sihanouk had a falling out with Pol Pot, whom he had initially supported after he was voted out of political office by his own National Assembly in 1970.

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The Cambodia Politics of Nostalgia: From Indochina to AEC 2015

In the meantime, the challenges Cambodia is facing for Asian integration is its slow increase of population including skill labors and strengthening the rule of laws within the country.

  1. The eyes-catching danger for Cambodia right now is the influx of population flowing from Vietnam. While the population of this country is hiked up to 90 millions, Cambodia is likely existing only 14 millions. The westward travelers of Vietnamese population is encouraged by both geographic frontier that blocks by China vast sea at the East, and their Vietnamese existing networks in Cambodia established since 1979 during more than 20,000 Vietnamese armed soldier trespassed into this country and anchored the power base in this land for more than 10 years.
  2.  Cambodian opposition party, CNRP, must promptly initiate the very jargon present Immigration Laws by introducing new up-to-date Immigration Laws and Laws on Nationality Naturalization and Names Change that other countries have effectively used it. Current Immigration Laws and Laws on Nationality Naturalization don’t respond to reality of Cambodia and to the policy of Asian Integration including its upcoming AEC at all. Some few recommendations, the Immigration Laws and its Control must be under Special Force of National Authority Level, not under the Ministry of Interior as practicing at the Present. While nationality application and name change (?) are under the Royal Decree, the Citizenship Identification Issuance must be under National Authority Level, not under provincial governor as presently practicing etc.
  3. The Immigration Authority must enforce the Laws and Implement them effectively and equally. As evidence, Cambodia must accept the reality that those remaining Vietnamese populations, at least since 1979, are in large number and omnipresently living throughout Cambodia. Those citizens have not yet been well integrated and naturalized. Of course, those citizens have created their living community in Cambodia before the birth of current Immigration Laws and Its Enforcement. This is odd. And this is imperative to create and effectivate National Level Policy to handle with those populations.

The most reliable way to anticipate the future is by comprehending the past and understanding the present

After indulging into the prolific description of Henry Mouhot for his book “Travels in Siam, Cambodia, Lao and Annam” during his visiting of these countries between 1859-1861 as a nature researcher and explorer (botanic naturalist); I am keen to glancing back to Angkorean period, the Indochina Federation of France, and the Vietnam’s War or the War that can change France Indochina into Vietnamese Indochina. After that, I am keen to looking at the present for different available scenarios to bring back the Spirit of Angkorean the Great for the Future Cambodia.

Recalling the Past of Greatness

Indochina King Norodom 1865

King Norodom 1865 Courtesy of: Keo Chanbo

Not need to describe much on the glory of Khmer empire between 8th century to 14th century as those gigantic monuments such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, Preah Vihear, Banteary Srey, Banteay Chmar, and groups of Sambo Prey Kok etc. are still discerning truth for all of us. Henry Mouhot visited Angkor Wat and he was stunned that Angkor Wat was built by Rome or Greece, and it is a world’s famous architect of Michelangilo in this plunged state. Of course, many believed and stated that Henry Mouhot is a botanic researcher (naturalist and explorer), but I am convinced that he is the France’s spy who recorded all treasures, natural resources, and geographic map for France to plan its colonization on this region. He is not different from Chou Ta Kuan who visited Angkor during the 14th century as a Chinese Ambassador but his detailed descriptions were sent directly to Mongol Emperor for conquering attempt on this region while China was a Mongol’s vassal state.

France firstly learnt about Cambodia and the Angkor from a Portuguese  Christian monk, António da Madalena , who visited Cambodia during the the 1586. The motivation behind France to arriving Cambodia, Vietnam and Lao, could be variable but I am believed, France was inspired by the Greatness of Angkor Wat depicted by Henry Mouhot, and the Official Invitation by the Khmer King Ang Duong. Many scholars wrote that France favoured Vietnam more than Cambodia and Lao as Vietnamese were so welcoming to the arrival of France including their subservient attitude, diligent, industrious, and more populated than Cambodia and Lao. But my argument is that France took their accessibility as a key decision-making by creating head-quarter in Vietnam as during that time only through China’s Sea that France can embark and transfer manpower and goods. France’s base in Vietnam is important to go through Cambodia and Lao, to Thailand, and to counter England in Burma.

Indochina Money 1 Riel Indochina Money 1 riel 1 Indochina Money 1 Riel 2 Indochina Money 1 Riel 3 Indochina Money 1 Riel 4 Indochina Money 1 Sen Indochina Money 2 Riel Indochina Money 5 Riels Indochina Money 5 Sen Indochina Money 10 Riels Indochina Money 10 Sen Indochina Money 20 Riels 1 Indochina Money 20 Sen Indochina Money 100 Riels

France created Indochina currency by using Vietnamese (Chinese pictographs), Laotians and Khmer scripts within all money bank-notes (see above bank-notes photos: courtesy of Keo Chanbo). France employed Vietnamese to work more than Cambodians and Laotians. France built schools and universities in Vietnam, not in Cambodia and Lao.

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Cambodia in Between China and America

Cambodia today or is China eating America's Lunch in South East AsiaAfter reading this article “Cambodia today or is China eating America’s lunch in South East Asia” by Zsuzanna Biedermann published in 2010, I am recalled to the previous article on “Geopolitics right of Cambodia in between China and Vietnam“. The article reminds us on how important China run faster than America in Cambodia as well as in South East Asia countries. One of the Chinese’s top lines is the ethno-Chinese population living in Cambodia and those countries. Chinese-Cambodians and Cambodian-Chinese are very receptive to total Cambodian population.

The author also repeated the saying that “There are a number of reasons why Cambodia is receptive to China. One is the way it does business. China understands Cambodia. It doesn’t throw us scraps of aid and then scold us in front of the world like a naughty child. That is not the Asian way – that is the colonial way.”.

Hence, Vietnam’s policy to dominate Cambodia and Lao is just their exit way from China’s hegemony. In some situation, China can oversea all Vietnamese desires to counter-strike its hegemony, but China could not see the Vietnamese waves flowing under the water surface – the infiltration of Vietnamese populations through intermarriage, accustomization and acculturalization such as changing the last name and first name, dressing the local traditional etiquette, and speaking the Khmer and Laotian language etc. 

Geopolitics right for future Cambodia in between China and Vietnam

Reading two articles and listening four hours Khmer Rouge history documentary these two days, I am keen to expose some inner preconception about best choice for Cambodian leadership in handling with foreign policy especially between China and Vietnam at the present.

CPP Comrades

Courtesy: Facebook

First article is the exclusive interview of the Khmer Time Magazine with German historian Bernd Schaefer who is expert on communist intelligence networks through his work on piling of reported documents archived on the file named Stasi Dossier while East Germany was close ally with Vietnam and Soviet during the cold war. Schaefer ever described many current Cambodian government leaders are former Vietnamese revolutionists and the report described characteristic of Heng Samrin and Chea Sim as true peasant-like leaders. The split of Sino-Soviet led to waging war at the border in 1969 triggered irk for Vietnam who has closely incorporated with China to topple the America. Thus, the geopolitics right in that time was Vietnam who suddenly decisively opened attack against Khmer Rouge and drove them away from Cambodia by installing their own government. Vietnam’s decision was noted that while Chinese leadership was having internal uncertainty regarding cultural revolution as well as visible weakness displayed by the Khmer Rouge’s internal dividing leadership, the attack happened spontaneously. However, the aggression happened during the early month of January was not paid attention by the western world as they were busy in celebrating new year eve and Christmas. To maintain its face, China opened attack Vietnam on the borderline 30 days later on February 17, 1979.

According to Schaefer, the history seems repeat itself as China and Vietnam is clumsy at each other at the present because of Spratley Island scheme. Between China and Vietnam, Cambodia must ensure that it chooses the geopolitics right.

Stasi files on Cambodia’s top officials – Southeast Asia Globe _ Southeast Asia Globe Magazine

KhmerTimes _ News Portal Cambodia _ _ Print Preview _ Why Did Vietnam Overthrow the Khmer Rouge in 1978_


vn burning china flag

Courtesy: Facebook

vn burning china flag1

Courtesy: Facebook


Second, screening the 583 pages titled “Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome in Cambodia“, his view is in parallel with Schaefer’s in term of geopolitics right. Impressively, during the fierce fighting between Thailand and Vietnam on an unsettled agreement to divide Cambodia land for their occupation, Thailand who was more powerful sent a legitimate Khmer King Ang Duong to the Cambodian throne in the expect to enlarge influence over Vietnam. However, the geopolitics changed as Western colonists were looking for new territories in this region including strong subconsciousness of King Ang Duong to free his land from both hegemony, his sovereign was admired in an attempt to welcome new comer like France to safeguard his territory.

Vickery 2010 on “Kicking Vietnam Syndrome in Cambodia”


Third, spending more than four hours while doing some chores and listening the youtube documentary broadcasted by RFA, it is understandable the remarkable demise of the Khmer kingdom under ultra nationalism, paranoid and xenophobic leadership of Pol Pot and his team. Comparing to Vietnam who experienced narrow space to move around after they defeated the America, but China shied away from them while Russia fought with both China and America, the prospect to maintain peace and unity of Northern and Southern Vietnam was so dim. So the decision to invade Cambodia is a one stone two birds action: good time to get more aids from Russia and waging a war than can unify the dividing fractions of Vietnam. More than this, King Ang Duong had no choice at all in using his own leverage to face with both Thailand and Vietnam. He was raised and educated in Bangkok since childhood. His returning back home was seen so fragile and disorganized. But opportunity arose as he worked hard to strengthen the country unity and secretly contact France if this colonist interested to be his nation guardian.

But Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot leadership and his team had everything in hand during their power. Pol Pot can easily court China and US to fight against Vietnam or achieve their ambition to reclaim Khmer Krom territory back. But this group is too bossy, disorganized, ultra nationalistic, ignorant, unproductive, xenophobic, and paranoid. Their management begun with displacing people from their own shelter in order to prey enemy or those suspected. The weakest point that Pol Pot lost their geopolitics right opportunity is the destroying of his own manpower. Leadership that take their own citizens as hostage and enemy is the worst management in the history of human kind.

A Social fabric

Courtesy: Facebook

So right now, after the agreement on 22 July 2014 between CNRP and CPP, the twilight for Cambodia strength on political management is the jewel to choose geopolitics right. While opposition has promised to perform as “Loyal Opposition”, the government must pursue political pragmatism and integrity to conduct in-dept reform. “National solidarity” and “Cambodian people first service” will enable “extra strength” to paddle this Cambodia ship in a right direction in between China and Vietnam.               

Cambodia-China Relationship and Its Enlightenment

Looking back to the history, Cambodia-China has longest tied relationship with each other. It is in both historical and contemporary co-operation. The name of Funan, an ancient Cambodian capital city, was literally coined by Chinese trader, and many other names of Khmer Kings during Funan period were entirely Chinese vernacular. The most significant notion is the Chinese Ambassador Chau Takuan who visited Cambodia Empire of Angkor. He inscribed the situation there vivaciously. His thesis becomes important historical manuscript for students and researchers to understand the culture of Khmer Empire in that time prior to its declination and seizing by the Siam eventually.

Recently, many Chinese top officers came to Cambodia with the same intention is to strengthen the relationship and boost the economic co-operation between two countries. There are several reflections to this tie and its future trend.

After the cold war, the tie with China was promoted in both economic development and political bloc rivalry. China provided aids to build Cambodia infrastructure and other industrial development tools. During Songkum Reastr Niyum led by King Norodom Sihanouk, there were concrete legacies of China’s support left in many fields. But when the aura of American war spread out in the region, China became the leading supporter to the Khmer Rouge to rally against America. American imperialistic war and China’s hard line resistance to the influence of America in the region resulted intractable conflicts and catastrophe in Cambodia. China and America were very keen proportion of peace and war in Cambodia in that time.

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Reversing Cambodia’s democratic drift

Reversing Cambodia’s democratic drift

Op-Ed: East Asia Forum

14 February 2019

One viable approach to halting the degeneration of Cambodia’s ersatz democracy is to engage in channels of dialogue at both national and international levels. At the national level, it is imperative to resume the culture of dialogue between the ruling CPP and the dissolved CNRP.
Dialogue at the international level requires participation and coordination from key external players that have significant leverage over Cambodia’s political and economic landscape, such as the United States, the European Union and China. Other players like Australia, Japan and ASEAN are also important.
Through these channels of discussion and negotiation the course of Cambodia’s democracy, perceived by many as a drift towards autocratic rule, can be reversed.

ដំណោះស្រាយទៅបានដោយរលូនមួយដើម្បីទប់ស្កាត់ការលូតលាស់នៃប្រជាធិបតេយ្យគ្រាន់តែជាត្រីមុខរបស់កម្ពុជាគឺការបន្តជជែកគ្នានៅគ្រប់កំរិតថ្នាក់ទាំងអស់ ទាំងថ្នាក់ជាតិនិងអន្តរជាតិ។ នៅថ្នាក់ជាតិ វាសំខាន់ចាំបាច់ដើម្បីសើរើវប្បធម៍សន្ទនារវាងគណបក្សប្រជាជនគ្រប់គ្រងអំណាចនិងគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិដែលត្រូវបានរំលាយ។ ការសន្ទនាកំរិតអន្តរជាតិទាមទារការចូលរួមនិងការសហការពីតួអង្គខាងក្រៅសំខាន់ៗដែលមានអានុភាពពិសេសទៅលើទិដ្ឋភាពសេដ្ឋកិច្ចនិងនយោបាយកម្ពុជា មានដូចជាសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិក សហគមអុឺរ៉ុប និងចិន។ តួអង្គដ៏ទៃទៀតដូចជាអូស្ត្រាលី ជប៉ុន និងអាស៊ានក៏ជាតួអង្គសំខាន់ផងដែរ។ តាមរយៈនីតិវិធីនៃការពិភាក្សានិងចរចារទាំងនេះ ទិសដៅនៃលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យរបស់កម្ពុជា ដែលមនុស្សភាគច្រើនយល់ថាកំពុងធ្លាក់ទៅក្នុងរបបផ្តាច់ការ អាចនឹងត្រូវបានរស់រានឡើងវិញ។

Authors: Kimkong Heng, University of Queensland and Veasna Var, UNSW Canberra

Cambodia is drifting towards autocracy with a clear trend. An unprecedented crackdown on independent media, civil society and the country’s major opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), hardly suggest otherwise. Whether Hun Sen’s government likes it or not, similar observations about Cambodia will continue to emerge.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen arrives at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the toppling of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime at the Olympic stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 7 January 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).

Although 19 smaller parties participated in the July 2018 national elections, commentators and observers questioned the credibility of the election. Some called it a sham. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) was unchallenged in the election, allowing the CPP to secure a predictable landslide victory. The party won all 125 parliamentary seats.

Hun Sen’s recent political moves have not gone unnoticed. The United States has placed sanctions on high-ranking Cambodian government officials. The European Union has begun a formal procedure to withdraw its Everything But Arms (EBA) trade preferences. And the Australian and Japanese governments have raised concerns over the dissolution of the main opposition party.

Now, as international pressure mounts, Cambodia’s political tensions seem to be easing. In December 2018 the Cambodian National Assembly amended the Law on Political Parties, paving the way for the 118 banned CNRP politicians to return to politics.

It remains to be seen whether all CNRP officials will request political rehabilitation. So far, only two have. If this trend continues, a division within the opposition between supporters of acting CNRP President Sam Rainsy and former CNRP president Kem Sokha, who was arrested in 2017 prior to the party’s dissolution, may become more severe and lead to a split.

Sam Rainsy, who lives in self-imposed exile, recently announced that he would return to Cambodia this year to fight for change and democracy. He even challenged Hun Sen to a bet over the likelihood of Kem Sokha’s release amid mounting international pressure. He faces imprisonment if he loses, but if he wins Hun Sen has agreed to step down from power.

Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy shook hand during the hayday of “Culture of Dialogue”

The high-stakes wager reflects the country’s political dysfunction and could result in a lose-lose situation for both prominent Cambodian political figures. Hun Sen may come under more criticism and Sam Rainsy could further damage his already compromised integrity if they fail to stick to the terms of their political wager. As it stands, it seems likely that Sam Rainsy will try to take advantage of the situation to return to Cambodia, resume his political career and put more pressure on Hun Sen’s government.

The direction of Cambodia’s political development remains unclear amid talk of Sam Rainsy’s return and the possibility of senior CNRP officials returning to politics. Despite this uncertainty, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling elites hold the key to relieving the political deadlock and putting the deteriorating democracy back on track.

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Why Hun Sen needs China now more than ever

Why Hun Sen needs China now more than ever

Pending US and EU sanctions threaten to sink Cambodia’s economy. Will China come to the rescue?

Op-Ed: Asia Time


In multiple and mounting ways, from aid to trade to diplomatic protection, China keeps its geopolitical ally Cambodia afloat. That patron-client relationship was on full display late last month when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen made a hat-in-hand four-day state visit to Beijing.

The leader came away with what he sought: More money, more promises and more comradely assurances. Beijing reportedly pledged to provide Cambodia with US$588 million in aid over the next three years, to import 400,000 tons of rice, increase bilateral trade from $5.7 billion last year to $10 billion in 2023, and broadly more investment.

Courtesy: US Embassy Phnom Penh, Facebook page

“At present, China-Cambodia relations are facing new development opportunities,” China state-media outlet Xinhua quoted President Xi Jinping as saying after his meeting with Hun Sen last week. Hun Sen, for his part, wrote in a post-visit Facebook post that Xi “praised [China’s] special cooperation with Cambodia and vowed to make the relationship even stronger” and that its future development assistance for that country will be “twice more solid.”

China’s patronage is arguably more important now than ever, as the United States (US) moves to sanction Hun Sen’s regime and the European Union (EU) looks to withdraw the country from its duty-free Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme. Both are punitive responses to Cambodia’s recent democratic retreat, exemplified by the dissolution of country’s main opposition party in November 2017, a move that drove many of its members into exile.

Video clip depicts reality of China who can easily withdraw from Cambodia when its interests is not fruitful anymore. As most raw materials imported by China to Cambodia, the closure of garment factories in this country by the withdrawal of EU EBA and US GST, will probe China’s huge interests in its economy which has always drawn by China’s geopolitical instinct.

Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) thus won all the seats in the National Assembly at last July’s general election, a result many Western observers and governments saw as rigged and illegitimate. The CPP has claimed that any Western criticism of its rule is an assault on the country’s sovereignty and insult to its independence, claims the long-ruling party has played up to nationalistic effect.

China, it seems, is now backing that anti-Western narrative. Its new ambassador to Cambodia, Wang Wentian, recently asserted that Western nations want to “attack the cooperation between Cambodia and China.” Geopolitical shifts partly explain why Beijing has appeared to indulge the Cambodian government’s worst anti-democratic instincts and move to a de facto one-party state after years of Western-favored multi-party democracy.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen looks at a ballot box after he casted his ballot at a polling station in Kandal province on June 4, 2017. The leader has presided over a harsh crackdown on dissent in recent weeks. Photo: AFP/ Tang Chhin Sothy
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen looks at a ballot box after he casted his ballot at a polling station in Kandal province on June 4, 2017. Photo: AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy

Elections last year in Pakistan, Maldives and Malaysia all saw skeptics of China’s $1 trillion infrastructure-building Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) rise to democratic power. Other regional countries have also started to air misgivings or stalled on BRI-related projects. While some reports of BRI downsides and debt traps have been exaggerated, there is a rising regional backlash against Chinese investments that are perceived to erode nations’ sovereignty and finances.

Xi stressed at a high-level symposium to mark the BRI’s fifth anniversary held in Beijing last August that its projects aim to “improve the global governance system” and build a world “community of shared destiny.” It’s a message China aims in particular for neighboring Southeast Asia, where big BRI plans for connecting infrastructure to promote and facilitate more regional trade are on the drawing board.

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Is Cambodia’s Foreign Policy Heading in the Right Direction?

Is Cambodia’s Foreign Policy Heading in the Right Direction?

Cambodia needs to recalibrate its relationships with the US and EU, or risk becoming overly reliant on China.

Op-Ed: The Diplomat

By Kimkong Heng, February 08, 2019       

Cambodia’s foreign policy has seen remarkable improvements after 1993 when the country held its UN-organized national election. The Cambodian government’s efforts to integrate Cambodia into the region and the world have resulted in Cambodia’s membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1999 and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2004. The Kingdom has overall had good relations with its neighbors and other countries in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Courtesy: Cabinet of Minister in its routine meeting

However, as a small state Cambodia has limited strategic space to maneuver and its foreign policy dynamics face considerable challenges. The country is seen to lean toward China, its closest ally and its largest economic and military benefactor, at the expense of good relations with other countries. Cambodia’s close embrace of China has become more evident since 2012. From blocking ASEAN joint statements to supporting Beijing’s One China policy, Cambodia continues to demonstrate its willingness to embrace China. In turn, China has reciprocated through increasing “no strings attached” aid and loans to Cambodia.

Both countries upgraded their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2010, and as of now China is Cambodia’s largest foreign direct investor. The trade volume between the two countries was valued at $5.8 billion in 2017, by which time China had given approximately $4.2 billion to Cambodia in the form of aid and soft loans.

While Cambodia is seen to enjoy its reciprocal relationship with the world’s second largest economy, its relations with the West look set to deteriorate.

Following the dissolution of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in 2017 and the controversial national election in 2018, which saw the ruling party sweep all seats in the National Assembly, Cambodia’s ties with the United States reached a new low. The United States has imposed visa sanctions on high-ranking Cambodian government officials, withdrawn aid commitments, and further imposed financial sanctions, including asset freezes on the commander of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit. The Cambodian ruling elites have condemned these sanctions and have repeatedly made reference to the U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, rhetoric Hun Sen’s government has often used to criticize the US.

Cambodia’s ties with the European Union now also face challenges. The EU has begun the internal process to withdraw its Everything But Arms (EBA) trade preferences from Cambodia, a move the European bloc initiated in response to the Cambodia government’s perceived lack of commitment to improve its human, labor, and political rights situation. In return, Cambodia issued a communiqué calling the EU trade threat an extreme injustice. The EU has been also accused of using double standards in its treatment of Cambodia. Further, Prime Minister Hun Sen has recently warned that he would put an end to the opposition party if the EU withdraws the EBA from Cambodia.

Cambodia’s foreign policy toward the United States and the EU, analyzed in terms of recent developments, appears not to be heading in the right direction. It is not wise for Cambodia, as a small developing country, to fight against or alienate itself from the world’s largest economy and the world’s largest trading bloc. Although the Cambodian government may have strong support from China, its current approach toward the United States and the EU will not be helpful in the long run. It is certainly better to have friends on both sides of the world, rather than adopt a one-sided orientation toward friendship and foreign policy.

Hun Sen and his ruling elites’ powerful narratives of war, peace, development, poverty reduction, independence, and sovereignty are well developed and seem to be well received by many Cambodians who have first- or even second-hand experience of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. Most Cambodians, if not all, would not like to experience or hear about war or social instability again at all. However, they also expect more from their country and leaders. In addition to peace and stability, they have a strong desire for better opportunities, freedom, and human rights. They want to see many social issues being addressed. While they are hopeful for the future of Cambodia, they may also be worried about a possible worst-case scenario where their country may fall victim to a new cold war in Southeast Asia. Specifically, it is conceivable that Cambodia may become an object of strategies used by China and the United States in their competition for dominance in the international system and in Southeast Asia in particular.

Cambodia’s close alignment with China, although important for Cambodia’s economic development and the ruling elites’ legitimacy, does not seem to bring about sustainable and inclusive development for all. Chinese investment, aid, and loans are generally directed at the government and the Cambodian elites. Unlike the Chinese way, the Western approach to aid, loans, and investment projects is usually channelled through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and aimed at benefiting ordinary Cambodians. Although the number and amount of aid and development projects from the West are few, when compared with a large and increasing number of the Chinese investment projects, they are usually seen to promote accountability, sustainability, and inclusiveness. Chinese investment projects, however, tend to lack transparency and accountability, leading to many environmental and social issues in Cambodia. Thus, the impact of China’s development projects on the sustainable development of Cambodia is still an open question.

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  • Officials insist Thailand’s former leader Yingluck Shinawatra hasn’t been given a Cambodian passport
  • So how she used one to register a company in Hong Kong is a mystery that points to the ‘highest levels’, observers say

Op-Ed: South China Morning Post (SCMP)


Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Photo: AFP

Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Photo: AFP

The news that Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is in possession of a Cambodian passport poses a troubling question for many of her new-found compatriots: who gave it to her? The self-exiled leader, who fled Thailand in August 2017 before being sentenced to prison on what she says are politically motivated charges, used a Cambodian passport to register as the sole director of a Hong Kong company incorporated in August last year – as revealed by the South China Morning Post.

The red passport emblazoned with the words “Kingdom of Cambodia” in gold might not be what anyone would expect Yingluck Shinawatra, former prime minister of Thailand, to present at an immigration checkpoint.
With visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to just 54 destinations worldwide, it is ranked among the least powerful passports in the world by the annual Henley Passport Index, at a lowly No. 84 out of 104.
Officially, anyone with US$300,000 to spare can pick up a Cambodian passport. That is what Cambodia requests as an investment before handing out its travel document.
Yingluck, in self-exile since 2017, before Thailand’s supreme court sentenced her to five years in prison for mishandling rice subsidies, used a Cambodian passport to register herself as sole director of a Hong Kong company incorporated last August last year, according to official filings. The disclosure, in a South China Morning Post story this month, added to the theory that she fled Thailand via Cambodia.
It also put the spotlight on the ease with which the world’s wealthy can obtain new passports or residency in a new country if they have the cash it takes – anything between US$100,000 and US$2 million.
This can all be above board and properly regulated, with thorough screening of applicants. In some cases, however, getting a new passport has been said to be as easy as shopping online, and the individual does not even have to show up in person.
Some get new passports by bribing officials.
“For some investors, they want to move to somewhere else because they truly want to do business there,” said Benny Cheung Ka-hei, director of the Goldmax Immigration Consulting in Hong Kong. “But then of course, some of the rich Chinese have too much money to spare and have no problems spending a few million dollars on foreign passports. They want foreign passports as protection, and also for showing off.”

Source SCMP

But Phnom Penh has denied that Yingluck holds a Cambodian passport and observers question whether there has been a royal decree conferring citizenship on her – something that is required of all other foreigners.

Cambodia denies it issued a passport to former Thai prime minister

Mu Sochua, vice-president of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party, said she did not believe Cambodian officials’ claims they were not aware of Yingluck’s Cambodian passport.

“There are many, many issues in terms of legality and sovereignty as far as Cambodia is concerned … where is the royal decree? No citizenship can be issued without a royal decree, and to get a passport from any country, you need to be a citizen of that country,” said Sochua, who fled her own country in 2017.

Mu Sochua, vice-president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party. Photo: Reuters

Sochua demanded Cambodia’s strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen investigate.

“Isn’t he concerned that an ex-prime minister holds a passport of his country? And if he has not ordered it, then who has? Who ordered the passport to be issued?

“For Yingluck, an ex-minister of Thailand, I don’t think an official at the Ministry of Interior or the Foreign Ministry would dare to [issue it] – even if she wanted to buy it for a million dollars.”

Sochua believes Yingluck received the passport because of her ties with Hun Sen. Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, also a former prime minister of Thailand in self-imposed exile, used to be an adviser to the Cambodian government.

Cambodia launches crackdown on passports

“The Thai junta government has collaborated with the Hun Sen regime in deporting Cambodian political asylum seekers to Cambodia. The question is: will the Thai junta ask Hun Sen to seek the deportation of Yingluck if and when she travels with the Cambodian passport?” added Sochua.

Sophal Ear, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at the Occidental College in Los Angeles, said the decision to grant Yingluck a passport must have come from “the highest levels” of the Cambodian government.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Photo: AP

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Cambodia: A Country for Rent

Cambodia: A Country for Rent

Richard Bernstein FEBRUARY 21, 2019 ISSUE

Ly Lay/AFP/Getty ImagesCambodian prime minister Hun Sen at a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new ring road in Phnom Penh, with financing from the Chinese government, January 2019

Not that it should have been a surprise, but China was the only major country that declined to join the international criticism of Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, as he ensured that he would run effectively unopposed in the parliamentary elections on July 29, 2018, turning them into a sham and largely dismantling what remained of Cambodia’s democratic structures. Among Hun Sen’s actions was the arrest and imprisonment on transparently ridiculous charges of Kem Sokha, the leader of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), the only opposition party capable of challenging his rule. That occurred just after midnight on September 3, 2017, when some one hundred armed police descended on Kem’s Phnom Penh home and hauled him off to a rural prison near the Vietnamese border, where he remained for a year before being released on bail to await trial. With the only other Cambodian opposition figure of national stature, Sam Rainsy, living in enforced exile, Hun Sen had no credible challenger in the elections. His party won all 125 seats in the National Assembly.


There were other acts of brazen and undisguised repression that provoked the disapproval of much of the world apart from China. Cambodia’s main English-language newspaper, The Cambodian Daily, which had done good professional reporting on the country for twenty-four years, training a generation of Cambodian journalists in the process, was closed down on dubious charges of tax evasion. NGOs, including the National Democratic Institute, which is affiliated with the Democratic Party in the US, were expelled from the country. Most important, perhaps, Hun Sen’s compliant Supreme Court, two months after Kem’s arrest, dissolved the CNRP and banned 118 of its senior figures from politics for five years.

The purpose of this repression is obvious. Kem and his party had performed well in parliamentary elections six years ago despite the ruling party’s efforts to manipulate them, including the occasional unsolved murder and attacks on opposition rallies. In 2017 the CNRP received 44 percent of the vote in local elections, compared to 49 percent for Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party. Given the widespread disaffection with Hun Sen and his corrupt cohort, especially among younger voters, many Cambodian and foreign observers believed that if the July 29 vote had been free and fair, Kem might well have won, thereby unseating Hun Sen after thirty-three years in power.

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