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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

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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

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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

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 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

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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

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 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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 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

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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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Job losses, pay cuts, force Cambodians into bad debts

Job losses, pay cuts, force Cambodians into bad debts

VOA Khmer reported on Debts Disaster Cambodia

Sangeetha Amarthalingam
Original Reference: Phnom Penh Post
Publication date 14 May 2020 | 22:04 ICT

The unrelenting negative economic effect of Covid-19 on businesses and banks’ stringent procedures have put Cambodians in a bind over term loans

In the mid-1970s, when the city crashed and burned in a warped socialist uprising led by Communist Party of Kampuchea leader Pol Pot, untold fear gripped the people.

Today, although less menacing, the fear is surreal as Covid-19 does a number on the economy.

It has resulted in thousands of documented job displacements in the garment sector, and wage cuts among white collar workers in Cambodia, although this has yet to be quantified.

The situation is graver because garment workers, as past studies show, stimulate the economy in the informal sector which is made up of street food vendors, hairdressers and transport providers.

A rough estimate shows that each wage earner in the garment sector supports five to six persons in the informal sector via local economic stimulation.

The government estimates that the temporary loss of some 150,000 jobs in the garment sector would indirectly affect some one million people in the informal sector.

David Van, senior associate of Platform Impact, a public-private partnership, said: “The government’s so-called Covid-19 stimulus plan is [also] not leading anywhere as small- and medium-sized enterprises are finding difficulty securing loans.

“If they close shop permanently, then there would be fewer jobs in the future. The picture is very grim.”

As if that was not bad enough, nearly 90,000 Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand who flooded back home amid the crisis will likely raise the unemployment rate in the Kingdom.

All these could veritably point to an expected growth in indebtedness among Cambodians. Up to 2018, the Credit Bureau of Cambodia recorded $20.9 billion in overall outstanding loan balances, representing 3.3 million active borrowers from 157 financial institutions.

Besides, an updated May report by NGOs Licadho and Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) on the debt crisis faced by the lower strata of the society revealed that more than 2.6 million Cambodian borrowers held more than $10 billion in microfinance debt by the end of 2019.

The report “Driven Out – One village’s experience with microfinance institutions (MFIs) and cross-border migration” said the amount constituted an average loan size of $3,804.

This is supposedly the highest figure in the world, and an increase on an “already troubling” average of $3,370 as of December 31, 2018.

“This debt, the majority of which is collateralised by land titles, continues to pose a significant threat to land tenure security for indebted families and has led to other serious and systematic human rights abuses across the country, including debt-driven migration,” Licadho and STT said.

Based on the report, the situation had already seemed compounding before Covid-19. But the pandemic has sent the Cambodian economy into a tailspin.

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CNRP Statement on Hun Sen dictatorship leadership has stagnated Cambodia democracy and economy

February 27, 2020

The Cambodian People do not allow Hun Sen to destroy the Cambodian economy.

After the abolition of Cambodia democracy, Hun Sen has been in the process of destroying the economy.  The destruction of both: the political democracy and the national economy in which these two factors are original interdependent, Hun Sen has a single reason is the desire to maintain his personal lifetime power.

Two grave mistakes Hun Sen has made are political democracy and national economy. The most serious political mistake in this case is the dissolution of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in 2017 aiming to preempt the CNRP from participating in the 2018 national election. The dissolution of the CNRP is a killing of democracy because without having a strong oposition party, democracy is totally dead. Everyone knows that without CNRP as opposition party, no other party is credible. Hun Sen’s ultimate decision to dissolve CNRP has triggered the international community especially the European Union reacted swiftly as EU has essential role and obligation to safeguard democracy and human rights in Cambodia. One of the EU’s urgent reactions is to suspend the trade preference named “everything but arm” (EBA) scheme in which has resulted in grave economic slow-down in Cambodia. Another mistake of Hun Sen is to associate with China and be fully dependent on China’s supports of economy development while EU and USA have sanctioned or have prepared more severe economy and trade sanctions over current Cambodia regime.


The latest is a similar case of the Pol Pot whose leadership was wholly depending on China to contain his grip on power, under the Khmer Rouge regime, in the 1970s.

For the economy mistake, Hun Sen has undertaken it since 25 years ago. This failure is caused by Hun Sen’s ignorance and uneducated mindset which has not based on skill, experience and vision to handle the national economy development.

Hun Sen has lacked self-education and does not understand the investment of providing education to the people for nation development, Hun Sen has spoiled the Cambodia education system with disorganized human resource management and low quality standard comparing to neighboring countries. Hun Sen has relied on garment factory economy solely which requires low techinical skill and workers receive low wage as well. More than this, Hun Sen has made garment industry exported to free world countries only such as Europe and USA by relying on monopolitic raw materials imported from China. Right now, both exporting destination countries and key source of raw materials have been facing uncertainty and shortfall impacted by the suspension of EBA and COVID-19 infection. The Coronavirus infection has troubled badly on China’s industry which has curtailed supply chain to Cambodia.

With above policy failure, Cambodia’s garment industry shall face severe crisis causing unemployment and livelihood of millions of Cambodian workers and their families.

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Cambodia may increase global coronavirus spread

Cambodia may increase global coronavirus spread

  • Original source: Bangkok Post
  • 18 Feb 2020 at 13:50
  • WRITER: GARY BOYLE

A train attendant waits to check passengers at a deserted Beijing railway station on Friday evening, Feb 14, 2020. (NYT photo)

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia: When Cambodia’s prime minister greeted passengers on a cruise ship amid a coronavirus scare on Valentine’s Day, there were hugs but no masks.

Not only did Prime Minister Hun Sen not wear one, assured that the ship was virus-free, his bodyguards ordered people who wore masks to take them off. The next day, the US ambassador to Cambodia, W. Patrick Murphy, who brought his own family to greet the passengers streaming off the ship, also went maskless.

But after hundreds of passengers had disembarked, one later tested positive for the coronavirus. Now, health officials worry that Cambodia has opened its doors to the outbreak, and that the world may pay a price as passengers from the cruse ship Westerdam head home.

Before the Westerdam docked in Sihanoukville, fearful governments in other countries had turned the ship away at five ports of call even though the cruise operator, Holland America, assured officials that the ship’s passengers had been carefully screened.

Hun Sen’s decision to allow it entry appeared to be political. The region’s longest-serving ruler and a close ally of China, he is known for his survival skills.

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Sam Rainsy’s Attempted Return to Cambodia Shows Hun Sen Is Running out of Time

By David Whitehouse -February 7, 2020    

Sam rainsy
Image: Reuters

Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy told everyone that he would be back in Cambodia for independence day celebrations on November 9. He never made it, and is still in exile in Paris. Game, set and match to Prime Minister Hun Sen?

Some media reports at the time suggested that the failure to return could mean the end of Sam Rainsy’s political career. Other journalists have accused him of a lack of courage – though without suggesting any alternative opposition strategy.

Opinion polls are taboo in Cambodia, so it’s hard to measure how the attempted return affected the popularity of Sam Rainsy. If his Facebook page is any guide, the episode has not dimmed his standing in Cambodia. His recent video on Facebook in which he challenged Hun Sen to put him on trial for treason in place of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha has been viewed well over a million times: bear in mind that Cambodia has a population of 15 million and that many have no Internet access.

Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy were the joint founders of the CNRP in 2012. Sam Rainsy stood down as leader in 2017, hoping to avoid his list of convictions for various offences including libel being used as grounds to justify the dissolution of the party. So Hun Sen simply arrested Kem Sokha instead for treason, dissolved the CNRP, then cast aside to seek evidence for the charge. This “evidence” largely consists of an unremarkable speech made by Kem Sokha in Australia in 2013.

This is worth repeating if you are new to the story: an exiled dissident who has spent most of the last 15 years in Paris, who has accumulated a stack of in absentia libel convictions in Cambodia’s courts, and who demands to be put on trial for the treason charge now faced by his deputy as party leader until 2017, is not facing trial because . . . the government is too scared to do it.

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Cambodia’s economy in the post-EBA era

Cambodia’s economy in the post-EBA era

Op-Ed: East Asia Forum, 16 December 2019

Author: Pheakdey Heng, Enrich Institute

It has been yet another impressive year for Cambodia’s economy. Thanks to continued strength in traditional sectors such as garments, tourism, trade and construction, Cambodia’s GDP grew 7 per cent in 2019 — the highest growth in the ASEAN region according to the IMF.

Garment workers gather at the Tonle Sap bank during a celebration for Labour Day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia 1 May 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).

While this impressive growth is a reason to celebrate, the possible withdrawal of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative may affect Cambodia’s growth prospects for 2020 and beyond. Established in 2001, the EBA gives Cambodia and 48 of the world’s poorest countries access to zero tariffs on all exports except arms and ammunition to the European Union on the condition that they comply with the principles of 15 United Nations and International Labour Organization conventions on core human and labour rights.

The European Union launched an EBA withdrawal procedure on 12 February 2019 after citing ‘a deterioration of democracy and respect for human rights’ in Cambodia. After a six-month monitoring and evaluation period, the EU Commission issued a report on the situation in November and gave the government a month to respond. Depending on developments in the country, the Commission will decide by February 2020 whether or not to suspend Cambodia’s EBA privileges fully or in part. A suspension would come into effect by August 2020.

EBA termination will be a big economic loss for Cambodia, currently the second-largest beneficiary of this trade privilege. Cambodia’s exports to the European Union last year totalled around US$5.8 billion — 95 per cent of which entered the European Union duty-free.

The textile industry will be hit the hardest. The EBA has fuelled an export boom that has kept the economy growing at a steady 7 per cent a year and helped to lift millions of people out of poverty. Suspending the EBA makes exports less competitive, putting workers at risk of losing jobs and dragging down economic growth overall. Around 2 million Cambodians depend on the textile industry, including 750,000 employees.

To help cushion the negative impact of the EBA withdrawal, the government is introducing measures to facilitate trade by lowering logistical costs, cutting red tape and supporting businesses with a six-day reduction in the number of public holidays to increase productivity.

Around US$3 billion is reserved for fiscal stimulus to cope with the potential slowdown. The government also plans to increase revenue raised from taxation, customs and excise by more than 20 per cent next year. The government collected some US$4.57 billion in revenue from customs and taxation in the first nine months of 2019.

While Cambodia is almost certain to miss out on growth potential, the EBA withdrawal is also an opportunity to implement deep reform to ensure sustainable growth over the long term.

Currently Cambodia’s main exports are garments and footwear, mostly to the European Union and the United States. But this industry is labour-intensive, has low levels of technology application and low value addition. Cambodia needs to transform its industrial structure from a labour-intensive sector to a technology-driven, knowledge-based modern industry if it wants to generate lasting growth.

The strategic approach is to promote the development of the manufacturing and agro-processing industries. Investment in these sectors is more sustainable than the low-wage garment industry. It can enable Cambodian workers to acquire higher skills, paving the way for higher value products and services and better integration into regional and global production chains.

To build economic resilience, Cambodia also needs to diversify its economic partners. Trade with China, Japan and South Korea has been on the rise and there is still room to grow. Cambodia and China are now discussing a free trade agreement. If successful, it sets a good precedent for bilateral FTAs with other countries.

Economic diversification and modernisation can only be achieved with the support of hard and soft infrastructure, a constructive policy and political environment and strong human capital. Investment is needed to improve the availability, reliability and affordability of energy, to develop a multimodal transport and logistics system and to strengthen the labour market through skill development. Political stability, good governance and sound regulation are also essential to attract foreign investment and technology transfer.

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Australia must stop ‘sucking up’ to Cambodia’s ‘gangster regime’: MP

Australia must stop ‘sucking up’ to Cambodia’s ‘gangster regime’: MP

By Anthony Galloway and James Massola

December 4, 2019 — 2.52pm

Australian MPs from both major parties have united to condemn Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in the wake of the dictator’s political opponent being put on trial for widely criticised treason charges.

Liberal and Labor politicians have also sounded the alarm on Chinese influence in the south-east Asian nation, including a planned military build up in the beach town of Sihanoukville.

Labor MP Julian Hill and Liberal senator James Paterson.
Labor MP Julian Hill and Liberal senator James Paterson.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

A Cambodian court this week sent Opposition Leader Kem Sokha’s case to trial, after he was arrested in 2017 and his party banned ahead of an election last year that was condemned by the international community.

Monovithya Kem, the exiled daughter of Mr Sokha and herself a major opposition figure, said the Australian government could do much more to pressure the Cambodian government.

“Targeted individual sanctions should happen immediately and only be lifted the day that Cambodia holds free, fair elections,” she told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

The European Union last month gave a one-month deadline for Hun Sen to explain what he will do to address human rights violations, while the United States Congress is also considering how to respond.

Labor MP Julian Hill said the Cambodian Prime Minister was running a “gangster regime” and Australia needed to change its approach.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen's actions have attracted the ire of Australian MPs.
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen’s actions have attracted the ire of Australian MPs.CREDIT:AP

“Putting the Opposition Leader on trial for treason? I mean seriously,” Mr Hill said.

“The Australian Government has to stop sucking up to Hun Sen and rethink our approach.

“It’s way past time that Australia consider tougher measures such as visa bans and asset freezes for senior members of this odious regime.”

Mr Hill said he would now push for a parliamentary inquiry into Cambodia through the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

Liberal Senator James Paterson said the charges against Mr Sokha were further evidence that Cambodia was flouting democratic norms.

“Julian Hill and I are unlikely allies. We are from opposite ends of opposing political parties,” Senator Paterson said.

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Cambodia: The Interpreter, Playing the long game against Hun Sen

Op-Ed: Cambodia: Playing
the long game
against Hun Sen

CHARLES DUNST

European Union pressure
is working, and revoking
trade preferences might
allow Cambodians to
escape dynastic rule.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Future of Asia Conference, Tokyo, 30 May 2019 (Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Future of Asia Conference, Tokyo, 30 May 2019 (Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images) Published 26 Nov 2019 12:30  


To the casual observer, it may appear that Cambodian strongman Hun Sen is letting up, undoing some recent repression. This month, Hun Sen released Kem Sokha, the founder and co-leader of the main opposition party, after more than two years of house arrest, days later also ordering the release of more than 70 opposition activists arrested for “plotting to overthrow the government”.

These moderate relaxations are a direct response to European Union pressure, despite ruling party rhetoric suggesting the opposite. Since February 2019, the EU, citing “a deterioration of democracy [and] respect for human rights”, has been moving towards revoking Cambodia’s membership in the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme, which allows the duty-free export of certain goods – textiles, footwear, and agricultural products – to Europe. The bloc will issue its final decision in February 2020. Cambodia, if removed, will experience what one analysis described as “a decline that could send the sector into free-fall and impact on the livelihoods of millions of Cambodians.” Meanwhile, the US Senate is considering a bill that would revoke Cambodia’s membership in Washington’s own preferential trade scheme.

Elders generally credit
Hun Sen with delivering
Cambodia from the
Khmer Rouge period,
but young people do
not feel as if they owe
him anything, instead
blaming him for the
state of the economy,
along with lagging
development and corruption.

Hun Sen is a skilled maneuverer, doing just enough over the years to satisfy the West, which in turn helps prop up Cambodia’s economy, imbuing him with some much-needed legitimacy. He has a long history of making short-term concessions, only to roll them back soon after, rather than implement any real change. This is perhaps best evidenced by his cynical treatment of Sokha, who despite being “free” is still banned from politics, and set to be put on trial for treason.

Western efforts have yet to bring about the peaceful, inclusive, and democratic Cambodia promised by the 1991 Paris Peace Accords. The US and Europe have struggled to counter Hun Sen effectively, instead seeking his cooperation on issues of mutual concern, hoping to keep Cambodia at least vaguely in the Western sphere of influence. But now, with Cambodia a codified one-party state deeply in China’s pocket – and Hun Sen lashing out against the EU – the West needs a new future-focused strategy, one that holds the Cambodian government accountable for human rights violations and other breaches. As a first step, Brussels and Washington should revoke their respective preferential trade statuses for Cambodia.

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Hun Sen rival faces trial even as EU threatens Cambodia sanctions

Hun Sen rival faces trial even as EU threatens Cambodia sanctions

Op-Ed: Nekei Asean Review, Kem Sokha will be tried for treason despite being released from house arrest

SHAUN TURTON, Contributing Writer NOVEMBER 19, 2019 14:35 JST

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the European Union flag. The EU last week sent Cambodia its preliminary report on whether to suspend the country from special trade privileges over its human rights record. (Nikkei Montage/ Source photo by Reuters)

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is pressing ahead with a treason case against a leading opposition figure who has just been released from house arrest, despite the nation facing European Union trade sanctions over its human rights record.

Hun Sen said on Monday that charges against Kem Sokha would not be dropped as demanded by the EU, Cambodia’s biggest export destination. “This case doesn’t require one or two days, or one month or two months, it will take a long time,” the strongman leader said.

Sokha was arrested in 2017 and faces up to 15 years in prison for what the government has claimed were plans for a U.S.-backed coup. His arrest and the subsequent Supreme Court ruling that dissolved his main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), saw Hun Sen’s ruling party capture every parliamentary seat in last year’s national election.

The crackdown, which also targeted civil society and media outlets, sparked an EU review of the country’s special trade privileges under the Everything But Arms scheme (EBA).

Losing the preference, which grants duty and quota free access to the bloc for all exports except weapons and ammunition, could be disastrous for the country’s 750,000-worker strong apparel and footwear sector, which generated more than $8 billion in exports last year.

The EU last week sent Cambodia its preliminary report on whether to suspend the country from the initiative, which is conditional on countries abiding by human and labor rights set out by the United Nations.

Its findings were not made public but a leaked copy, obtained by Radio Free Asia, reportedly concluded Cambodia had not taken enough steps to address “severe and systematic” violations of its principles.

In a statement, Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry claimed RFA’s coverage of the report was “not accurate” but did not provide any details from the document to contradict the outlet’s story. It said the government would review the report and submit “an appropriate response that will reflect updates of recent developments.”

In a sign of the mounting pressure, authorities last week relaxed house arrest conditions for Sokha, who can now travel in Cambodia but cannot leave the country or participate in political activities. The court also officially closed the case’s more than two-year investigation period.

In announcing the charges would not be dropped on Monday, Hun Sen claimed the court process was “independent,” an assertion at odds with the track record of Cambodia’s politically compliant judiciary.

President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Kem Sokha, right, shakes hands with European Union ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno at his home in Phnom Penh on Nov. 13.   © Reuters

Just last week, Hun Sen ordered the release on bail of more than 70 opposition activists arrested for supporting failed plans by self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia and lead an uprising.

Following a familiar playbook, the moves appeared an effort to soften the oppression of opponents. The government also announced tentative steps to allowing independent media to once again purchase airtime on local radio stations.

Sebastian Strangio, author of “Hun Sen’s Cambodia,” said using prisoners as “bargaining chips” was a well established practice by the strongman over his 30 years in power.

“These types of concessions have long been part of the political game,” he said.

“The pattern has concealed a steady drift towards more and more control in Hun Sen and the CPP’s hands,” Strangio said. “The EU had to threaten half a billion dollars estimated worth of economic impacts on Cambodia in order to get Hun Sen to back down on this and it’s taken a plus to get this concession out of him.”

But whether Hun Sen’s apparent concessions will sway the EU remains to be seen. While Sokha’s improved conditions were welcomed, the move also appeared a strategic ploy to engender a split between the opposition leader and his CNRP co-founder, Sam Rainsy.

“The decision has been made to play Kem Sokha against Sam Rainsy, to dilute, diminish or marginalize Sam Rainsy at the time his status has been rising,” longtime Cambodian political commentator Lao Mong Hay told the Nikkei Asian Review. “It’s too late and too little,” he said of the concessions.

Cambodia’s exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to the media upon arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Indonesia on Thursday. He met lawmakers in Indonesia before returning to his base in Paris.   © AP

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Why a 65-year-old grandmother is freely flying to probable imprisonment in Cambodia

“My daughters would rather I take a break from politics. They are worried about me,” Sochua admitted when we had lunch together before she left on her way home. “But they’ve decided to support me as a woman defending democracy and human rights. And yes, I’ll miss the grandchildren.”

កូនរបស់ខ្ញុំថាខ្ញុំគួរតែឈប់សម្រាកពីនយោបាយ។ ពួកគេបារម្មណ៍អំពីខ្ញុំ ៉ អ្នកស្រីមួរ សុខហួរទទួលស្គាល់ការពិតនៅពេលពួកយើងទទួលទានអាហារត្រង់ជាមួយគ្នា។ ប៉ុន្តែពួកគេបានសម្រេចចិត្តគាំទ្រខ្ញុំក្នុងនាមជាស្ត្រីការពារលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យនិងសិទ្ធិមនុស្ស។ ហើយពិតណាស់ ខ្ញុំនឹកដល់ចៅៗខ្ញុំណាស់។

Why a 65-year-old grandmother is freely flying to probable imprisonment in Cambodia

Mu Sochua, vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, speaks during a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Wednesday. (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)
Mu Sochua, vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, speaks during a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Wednesday. (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)

By Elizabeth Becker November 6, 2019 at 12:02 p.m. PST, Washington Post

Elizabeth Becker is a former Post war correspondent in Cambodia and author of “When the War was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution.”

In a few days, a 65-year-old grandmother will freely board a plane on a journey to probable imprisonment in a foul Cambodian jail. Mu Sochua, one of Cambodia’s most influential politicians, is the vice president of the outlawed opposition party trying to return democracy to Cambodia. She carries a U.S. passport but is under no illusion that this will protect her from the ire of Hun Sen, the strongman of Cambodia.

He has marked her as one of the country’s most dangerous traitors and has ordered the Cambodian army and police to use force to stop her and her colleagues from entering the country by land, sea or air. But Sochua and her peers thoughtfully announced their date of return in advance: Nov. 9, Cambodian Independence Day.AD

“This is the moment to go back,” Sochua told me. “Inside Cambodia, fear is everywhere. I can’t accept that Hun Sen continues as a cruel dictator.”

Sochua is a reminder of the unbearable personal sacrifices required to protect and promote democracy in this age of brutal tyrants, especially for women. We met decades ago when she opened the first nongovernmental organization for women’s rights in peacetime Cambodia, tackling domestic violence, human trafficking and gender equality under the law. Over the years, we shared our enjoyment of gossip, mutual admiration of Cambodian architecture and her hopes to pull the country closer to the ideals she absorbed in the United States.

Sochua was a practical idealist in a country traumatized by the Khmer Rouge genocide. After her parents sent all four children overseas to study when the Vietnam War spread into Cambodia in 1970, Sochua ended up in the Bay Area, graduating from San Francisco State and earning a master’s degree in social work from the University of California at Berkeley. She was on the cusp of the successful immigrant path — bright career, professional security and family.AD

Instead, she spent the next five years on the Thai border helping Cambodian refugees, honoring her parents who had disappeared under the Khmer Rouge. At the border camps, she met her husband, Scott Leiper, a Khmer-speaking American who was working to reunite children with their parents. They moved to the broken mess that was Cambodia and, with a family of three daughters, threw themselves into the country’s recovery: Leiper with the United Nations, Sochua from NGOs to politics.

As a Cambodian woman, Sochua faced huge pushback in the male-dominated political arena. Her daughters noticed what she was going through — the rough behavior, betrayals and threats of violence. Despite the obstacles, she won a seat in parliament and then became the first woman to head the Ministry for Women, chalking up success with new laws and the addition of women throughout government.

But Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge officer, pushed out his co-prime minister to rule Cambodia on his own and add to the spectacular corruption that had made him, his family and cronies multimillionaires in a poor nation. Sochua left the government to join the opposition. The country was looking for change and, in 2017, her party — the Cambodia National Rescue Party — scored an unexpected victory in local elections. The CNRP appeared headed for an even better showing in the upcoming national elections.

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‘Hun Sen is taking the piss’: Labor MP unloads on Cambodian dictator

Australia and the world made a promise to the Cambodian people, to stand up for human rights, peace and democracy. But 28 years on, the world has failed to keep its promise. Instead, Hun Sen’s regime has attacked human rights; killed democracy; given away the Cambodian people’s sovereignty; accumulated secret wealth overseasand undermined prosperity in our region.

ប្រទេសអូស្ត្រាលីនិងពិភពលោកបានសន្យាជាមួយប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរអោយក្រោកឈរឡើងដើម្បីការពារសិទ្ធិមនុស្ស សន្តិភាព និងប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ។ តែ២៨ឆ្នាំមកនេះ ពិភពលោកបរាជ័យក្នុងការរក្សាកិច្ចសន្យារបស់ខ្លួន។ ជាការជំនួសវិញ របបលោកហ៊ុន-សែន បានវាយប្រហារទៅលើសិទ្ធិមនុស្ស សំលាប់លទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ បោះបង់ចោលអធិបតេយ្យភាពដែនដីរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរ សន្សំទ្រព្យរាប់កោដិទុកនៅក្រៅប្រទេស និងបំផ្លិចបំផ្លាញសុខដុមរមនាក្នុងតំបន់។

‘Hun Sen is taking the piss’: Labor MP unloads on Cambodian dictator

James Massola
WAtoday, By James Massola, October 22, 2019 — 4.30pm

Jakarta: Federal Labor MP Julian Hill has launched an extraordinary attack on Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, declaring the dictator has sold out his country to China and warning the rising superpower is using the same tactics it used to militarise the South China Sea.

Mr Hill, whose seat of Bruce is home to one of the largest Cambodian-Australian populations, said that on the eve of the 28th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords that ended Cambodia’s long and bloody civil war, democracy was dying.

Chinese investment brings violence and drugs to once sleepy backpacking town in Cambodia

Billions of dollars of Chinese investment have transformed the town of Sihanoukville in CambodiaThirty-nine found dead in truck in Essex, UK

The MP recently spent a week in Cambodia on a self-funded study tour where he met with civil rights groups, union activists and the remnants of the now-banned political opposition.

“Australia and the world made a promise to the Cambodian people, to stand up for human rights, peace and democracy. But 28 years on, the world has failed to keep its promise,” he told Parliament.

“Instead, Hun Sen’s regime has attacked human rights; killed democracy; given away the Cambodian people’s sovereignty; accumulated secret wealth overseasand undermined prosperity in our region.”

In a speech that goes much further than the Labor leadership has been willing to in criticising the links between China and Cambodia, Mr Hill said “I don’t mean this as anti-China rhetoric … must be honest and say that I do not see what Hun Sen has let China do in Cambodia as positive”.

A woman is tended to after she was assaulted in a casino carpark in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
A woman is tended to after she was assaulted in a casino carpark in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.CREDIT:JAMES MASSOLA

“It [Chinese investment] may be couched as BRI [Belt and Road Infrastructure investment], but it shows all the signs of Hun Sen allowing the development of naval and air facilities to facilitate Chinese military planning. The same salami slicing tactics that the world saw in the South China Sea are at work.”

Sihanoukville, which has seen a huge amount of Chinese investment, is “like the fantasies about the Wild West of old. Casinos. Booze. Guns. Riches. Women”.

Sihanoukville is the worst place I have ever been.”

CAMBODIA

China’s takeover of Sihanoukville is almost complete, despite base row

Hun Sen won all 125 seats in the parliament in elections in July 2018 and has banned the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party. Former leader Kem Sokha is under house arrest in Phnom Penh, other leaders including Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua are in exile while many activists and politicians have been jailed.

Rainsy has recently threatened to return to Cambodia on November 9 to lead a popular uprising, prompting threats of violence and military intervention from Hun Sen, who has ruled the country for 34 years.

Against this back drop, Hill said Australia’s current approach to “just keep talking” to the Hun Sen regime was insufficient.

Hill said Australia should ramp up sanctions against Cambodia, get back into the “information game” through Radio Australia and short wave radio and push back by using our considerable soft power resources.

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Chinese naval base in Cambodia

According to a draft of the deal between Phnom Penh and Beijing, China would obtain a 30-year lease on the port, as well as a permit to station troops and storing weaponry. Two piers would be newly constructed, one for Cambodian and one for Chinese use. Chinese military personnel would be allowed to carry Cambodian passports, and Cambodians at the base would be required to get official permission from China to enter the Chinese section at the base.

យោងតាមពង្រាយឯកសារដោះដូររវាងក្រុងភ្នំពេញនិងប៉េកាំង ចិននឹងជួលកំពង់ផែរយៈពេល៣០ឆ្នាំ ក៏ដូចជាការអនុញ្ញាតអោយឈរជើងទ័ពនិងស្តុកគ្រឿងសព្វាវុធ។ ផែខ្នាតតូចពីរនឹងត្រូវកសាងឡើង មួយសម្រាប់ខ្មែរនិងមួយទៀតសម្រាប់ចិនប្រើប្រាស់។ បុគ្គលិកកងទ័ពចិននឹងត្រូវអនុញ្ញាតអោយកាន់លិខិតឆ្លងដែនខ្មែរ ហើយនៅមូលដ្ឋាននោះ ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរត្រូវសុំការអនុញ្ញាតពីភាគីចិនគ្រប់ពេលបើចង់ចូលទៅក្នុងមូលដ្ឋានរបស់ចិននោះ។

Chinese naval base in Cambodia

Chinese naval base in Cambodia

Op-Ed: by Hannah Elten , October 6, 2019

The undisclosed military pact between China and Cambodia forms another significant example of China pursuing dual-use infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific – while simultaneously denying the existence of such projects. Moreover, Hun Sen’s denial of the deal demonstrates that the Cambodian government, once viewed by Western countries as a potential ally in the region, is growing ever closer to China. Lastly, Chinese access to Ream base marks another step towards a looming rivalry with India in the Pacific region.

Cambodia and China have reportedly signed a secret deal allowing Chinese military troops access to the Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand. While both Cambodia and China have denied such an agreement, recent statements made by US military officials stationed in the Asia-Pacific leave little doubt about the integrity of the report.

Developments and Denial

Cambodian officials, including Ministry of Defense spokesman General Chum Sutheat, were swift in their rejection of the suggestion that Beijing is allowed to establish a military presence in Cambodia. However, suspicions have long circulated the Dara Sakor resort, a $3.8 billion investment project entirely financed and built by the Chinese Union Development Group (UDG). The project is located near both the run down Ream Naval Base and the coastal town of Sihanoukville.

Several points indicate the veracity of the WSJ report: Around 70 km away from Ream, UDG is also constructing Dara Sakor airport, which is due to open next year and will contain a runway longer than the one at Phnom Penh airport, raising concerns that it is ultimately envisioned also to serve aircrafts of the Chinese Air Force. At Ream itself, satellite images show that an area inside the base has been recently cleared and a bridge at the entrance is being repaired, potentially in preparation for construction work.

According to a draft of the deal between Phnom Penh and Beijing, China would obtain a 30-year lease on the port, as well as a permit to station troops and storing weaponry. Two piers would be newly constructed, one for Cambodian and one for Chinese use. Chinese military personnel would be allowed to carry Cambodian passports, and Cambodians at the base would be required to get official permission from China to enter the Chinese section at the base.

Same, same – but different

The implementation of the alleged agreement seems to follow the rules of a playbook Beijing has previously used.
In the past, China had frequently denied plans for maritime infrastructure abroad, even when construction was already underway, such as in the case of its outpost in Djibouti and the creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea. Chinese scholars and political analysts do not use the term “base”, instead of naming facilities “strategic support points”, pointing out their commercial purpose and operation via state-owned companies (such as UDG). Yet, their dual-use potential is palpable. While they are unlikely to be capable of sustaining primary combat operations, they could almost certainly provide logistical support, such as fuel, to passing naval ships, long distances away from Chinese territory.

The Chinese-Cambodian agreement appears to be more agreeable towards China than similar agreements it has concluded in the wider region. It also reflects how dependent  Hun Sen’s government has become in Beijing. Cambodia, although still the recipient of large amounts of development aid from Western countries such as the US and the EU, has increasingly sidelined its relations with these countries in favour of proximity to Beijing – most likely because its loans are coming with no strings attached with regards to human rights and functioning democratic institutions. Over the past two years alone, the Cambodian government has accepted more than $600 million in loans as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Broader geopolitical implications

On a full geopolitical scale, Chinese access to Ream has the potential to accelerate growing tensions with India in the Pacific region. Itself pursuing a deep-water port at Sambang, Indonesia, at the entrance to the Malacca Strait, India might see the advantages of its presence there reduced if China encroaches on the Strait via Cambodia, without having to rely on ships stationed at Hainan island overly.

Read More …

Can the US Bring Cambodia Back from the Brink?

But the United States government wisely has two clearly delineated policies: A hardline approach to the Cambodian government, on the one hand, and a soft overture to the country’s people, on the other. The United States, by building on the latter, can take additional steps to rebuild the “people power” that Cambodians need to claim their democracy and, given domestic anti-Chinese sentiment, to potentially counter Chinese expansion in Southeast Asia.

តែអាមេរិកមានគោលនយោបាយគូសវាស់ពីរយ៉ាងច្បាស់គឺប្រើប្រាស់កំឡាំងតឹងរឹងមួយផ្នែកនិងប្រើប្រាស់កំឡាំស្រទន់ទៅរកប្រជាជនមួយផ្នែក។ សហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកដោយការខាងខិតខំផ្នែកចុងក្រោយ អាចបង្កើនជំហានទៅរកការប្រើប្រាស់អំណាចប្រជាពលរដ្ឋបន្ថែមដែលប្រជាពលរដ្ឋអាចទាមទារលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យត្រឡប់មកវិញនិងក្តីកង្វល់រួចប្រឆាំងចិននៅក្នុងស្រុក ដែលជាកត្តាប្រឆាំងការពង្រីកឥទ្ធិពលចិននៅអាស៊ីអាគ្នេយ៍។

FEATURES | DIPLOMACY | SOUTHEAST ASIA

Can the US Bring Cambodia Back from the Brink?

The road to democratization in Cambodia is paved with obstacles. By Charles Dunst October 01, 2019

Can the US Bring Cambodia Back from the Brink?
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen stands as he watches the boat races during the water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018.Credit: AP Photo/Heng Sinith

In 1993, the United States believed Cambodia was on the path to democracy. In July of that year, Secretary of State Warren Christopher presented Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh at an event at New York’s famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel as Cambodia’s co-premiers — and as the supposed guarantors of the United Nations’ $2 billion investment in the country. 

Secretary Christopher could not have been more wrong. 

American support helped empower Hun Sen, who had in fact lost the 1993 elections, but nonetheless forced his way into power. Hun Sen ousted Ranariddh in 1997 and soon after eliminated the largest rival party. He then took control of the country’s security forces. Hun Sen has since consolidated power, targeted political opponents and placed himself at the center of a nationwide web of patronage

And although Hun Sen for years maintained his profitable autocracy while balancing the United States and China, he is now leaning almost exclusively on the latter, whose backing has enabled the strongman to more firmly tighten his iron fist, further frustrating U.S. interests in the region.

Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) performed poorly in the 2013 and 2017 elections. So a CPP-controlled court banned the main opposition party in 2018; the CPP then secured 80 percent of the vote in that year’s sham elections. Hun Sen’s CPP has since “intensified its onslaught on the political opposition, civil society groups, and independent media,” per Human Rights Watch.

In the wake of Hun Sen’s crackdown, the Trump administration has thrown away the carrots and doubled up on the sticks. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had maintained functional, although tense, relations with Hun Sen, hoping to utilize Cambodia geopolitically and salvage the international community’s investment in the country’s democracy. Trump has made no such efforts. Last year, citing “deep concerns” over “setbacks in democracy,” the White House cut aid to Cambodia, suspending funding that supported Hun Sen’s regime: the military, taxation department, and local authorities. Additionally, a bipartisan team in Congress is pushing to remove Cambodia from a preferential trade scheme for developing countries, and to sanction senior Cambodian government officials for “acts to undermine democracy in Cambodia.” (The European Union is likely to end its own preferential trade agreement with Cambodia, a move that analysts believe will “flatten” Cambodia.)

In the meantime, Cambodia has become a Chinese vassal state. Phnom Penh receives steady political support and financial aid from Beijing. In return, the Southeast Asian capital has repeatedly blocked the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in its efforts to counter China’s expansive claims to the South China Sea. Long-running rumors of a potential Chinese military base on Cambodian territory — about which U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has expressed concern — are, to some scholars, indicative of Beijing’s plans to secure hegemony over the Mekong Delta. More concretely, Phnom Penh announced on July 29 that it would increase arms purchases from China by $40 million. The Wall Street Journal’s July report that Cambodia will allow China to utilize a naval base on its soil should only further raise these concerns.

The Trump administration’s 2018 aid cuts are an effective first step in the effort to counter Hun Sen’s crackdown and frustrate the rapprochement between Cambodia and China. But the United States government wisely has two clearly delineated policies: A hardline approach to the Cambodian government, on the one hand, and a soft overture to the country’s people, on the other. The United States, by building on the latter, can take additional steps to rebuild the “people power” that Cambodians need to claim their democracy and, given domestic anti-Chinese sentiment, to potentially counter Chinese expansion in Southeast Asia.

Read More …

A new ‘Trump Doctrine’ could start with Cambodia

This is not a paper “war game.” America’s military has already considered this hypothetical, and has bombed its enemies on Cambodian soil once before. This time the objective would be to remove China’s military from Southeast Asia, and more broadly the Indo-Pacific, which includes the South China Sea. A collateral effect of bombing Cambodia could be changes in power which non-violent measures, like sanctions, could not effect. America would “kill two birds with one stone.”

នេះមិនមែនជាសំណេរហ្គេមសង្រ្គាមទេ។ ទ័ពអាមេរិកធ្លាប់ពិចារណាលើការសន្និដ្ឋាននេះ ហើយបានទំលាក់គ្រាប់បែកទៅលើសត្រូវរបស់ខ្លួននៅលើទឹកដីកម្ពុជាម្តងពីមុន។ ពេលនេះ គោលបំណងគឺដើម្បីរំលាយទ័ពចិនចេញពីតំបន់អាស៊ីអាគ្នេយ៌ ដែលរួមបច្ចូលទាំងមហាសមុទ្រចិនខាងត្បូង។ ផលពីទង្វើនៃការទំលាក់គ្រាប់បែកលើទឹកដីកម្ពុជាអាចធ្វើអោយមានការផ្លាស់ប្តូរប៉ូលអំណាច នៅពេលដែលវិធានការអហឹង្សានានាដូចជាការដាក់ទណ្ឌកម្មគ្មានប្រសិទ្ធិភាព។ អាមេរិកនឹងសំឡាប់បានសត្វពីរព្រួញមួយពេលនេះ។

A new ‘Trump Doctrine’ could start with Cambodia

Christopher Beres

Op-Ed: Asia Time, By CHRISTOPHER BERES

Picture this: Somewhere in the South China Sea, which China claims as its own, a Chinese warship confronts a Philippine warship or, maybe it’s vice versa, and shots are exchanged. It doesn’t matter which warship fired first. The fight is on and the Philippines’ warship is soon joined by American warships that come to the aid of their treaty ally. China marshals its resources, calling more of its warships to join the fight.

China’s military, which has clandestine facilities in Cambodia, ostensibly for the “repair and maintenance of its warships and jet fighters,” is ready to perform its support functions. The Chinese have prepared for this eventuality, but so too have the Americans. Rather than bomb mainland China, which could escalate the territorial dispute into a world war, America bombs China’s military facilities in Cambodia and, while at the task, bombs Cambodia’s military facilities as well. After all, Cambodia is not merely China’s friend, it’s China’s military ally.

This is not a paper “war game.” America’s military has already considered this hypothetical, and has bombed its enemies on Cambodian soil once before. This time the objective would be to remove China’s military from Southeast Asia, and more broadly the Indo-Pacific, which includes the South China Sea. A collateral effect of bombing Cambodia could be changes in power which non-violent measures, like sanctions, could not effect. America would “kill two birds with one stone.”

Reality is also fraught with peril. The US is engaged in a cold war with China. China is militarizing the South China Sea. Cambodia supports China’s claims to the South China Sea. The US believes Cambodia will permit China to position troops on its territory. China provides Cambodia with nearly all of its military assistance and small arms. Cambodia has had little choice but to engage China because of the historical threat and domestically unpopular land grabs from Vietnam to its east. The Philippines’ admiralty would also like to drag the US into a fight with China. America views China as a threat to the post-World War II status quo in Asia in which the US has heretofore been pre-eminent.

And while the Cambodian government has many US-educated leaders who could be pro-US, America has not played this card to improve its relationship with Cambodia, apparently having embarked on a course of non-violent measures to punish Cambodia.

Cambodia has been unfairly subject to a punitive US foreign policy for a long time. However, America’s policy could become more interventionist in order to counter China’s possible militarization of Cambodia

Cambodia has been unfairly subject to a punitive US foreign policy for a long time. However, America’s policy could become more interventionist in order to counter China’s possible militarization of Cambodia.

The US should engage with Cambodia as an ally, do business with it, and try to influence its actions with respect to China. The carrot is better than a stick that has not worked.

The US Congress’ current policy seeks to sanction Cambodia’s leaders, to deny Cambodia access to loans from international financial institutions, to withdraw Cambodia’s trade preferences, and to elevate a defunct opposition party to the status of the legitimate government of Cambodia. President Donald Trump has appointed a new ambassador to Cambodia whose self-professed mission is to promote democracy and human rights and work with Congress to punish Cambodia. In this context, America is in effect not willing to work with the long-standing de jure government in Phnom Penh.

Unfortunately, the United States’ experience with China over the last 30 years since Deng Xiaoping’s gaige kaifang (the “Four Modernizations”) has been that  over time with economic development China has not become more open but more closed and militaristic. Cambodia is open and democratic and needs friendship from a democratic partner in the West.

America’s real objective in Cambodia is not a secret and has nothing to do with freeing Kem Sokha or reviving the Cambodia National Rescue Party; rather, it is to contain China to protect America’s legitimate national-security interests. Certainly, Cambodia also has its own national-security interests to protect vis-a-vis China.

It is in both America’s and Cambodia’s best interest to negotiate a deal to contain China.

As a gesture of goodwill, the US might consider forgiving Cambodia’s war debt, which totals around US$500 million, in the amount of $50 million for every year over the next 10 years. The cost to America’s national security should China gain a military foothold in Cambodia would be much greater than $500 million.

As for Cambodia, it must know that the US is a better strategic ally than China, one that does not have the same “hidden agenda.”

A new “Trump Doctrine” for Cambodia and other parts of Southeast Asia would enable the US president to apply “the art of the deal” to disrupting the current unsuccessful US policy in the region. The Trump Doctrine would extend the Monroe Doctrine to be “the doctrine of the world” and “upset the applecart” of the failed policies of the past. As with his bipartisan consensus trade policy toward China, the goal would be to end China’s aggression in the region permanently.Asia Times is not responsible for the opinions, facts or any media content presented by contributors. In case of abuse, click here to report.

Christopher Beres

CHRISTOPHER BERES

Christopher Beres is a lawyer who has represented Cambodia in international litigation. He holds a master’s degree in East Asian Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.

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nullការ​សាងសង់​អាកាស​យាន្ដដ្ឋាន​អន្តរជាតិ​មួយ​ដោយ​ក្រុមហ៊ុន​ចិន​ក្នុង​តំបន់​តារា​សាគរ​បង្កើត​ឱ្យ​មាន​ការ​ព្រួយ​បារម្ភ​

21 កញ្ញា 2019


រូបឯកសារ៖ ការដ្ឋាន​សាង​សង់​ព្រលាន​យន្ត​ហោះ​​ដែល​អភិវឌ្ឍ​ដោយ​ក្រុម​ហ៊ុន Union Development Group នៅ​បទុម​សាគរ ខេត្ត​កោះ​កុង កាល​ពី​ខែ​​ឧសភា ២០១៨។
រូបឯកសារ៖ ការដ្ឋាន​សាង​សង់​ព្រលាន​យន្ត​ហោះ​​ដែល​អភិវឌ្ឍ​ដោយ​ក្រុម​ហ៊ុន Union Development Group នៅ​បទុម​សាគរ ខេត្ត​កោះ​កុង កាល​ពី​ខែ​​ឧសភា ២០១៨។

គោលបំណង​របស់​ក្រុមហ៊ុន​នេះ គឺ​សាងសង់​ទីក្រុង​ដ៏​ធំថ្មី​មួយ​របស់​កម្ពុជា​នៅ​ទីនេះ ដោយ​មាន​ទីក្រុង​លំហែកាយ​ជាប់​ឆ្នេរ​សមុទ្រ សណ្ឋាគារ​ប្រណិតៗ និង​ផ្ទះ​វីឡា សួន​ឧស្សាហ៍កម្ម ស្ថានីយ​ថាមពល រោងចក្រ​ចម្រាញ់​ទឹក​ស្អាត និង​អាគារ​សុខាភិបាល​ជាដើម។ខេត្ត​កោះកុង — 

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Chinese project in Cambodia raises alarms of military build-up

Chinese project in Cambodia raises alarms of military build-up

Op-ed: Kyodo News

Posted at Aug 12 2019 10:27 PM

While Cambodia welcomes an ongoing influx of Chinese tourists, investment and development, the world at large increasingly suspects that China is launching a military buildup in the country for stronger Chinese influence in Southeast Asia.

Dara Sakor, a new China-backed coastal resort in Koh Kong province, located some 400 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh by road, covers almost 20 percent of the country’s coastline.

Having obtained a 99-year land lease from the Cambodian government, the Chinese developer was allowed to develop on 36,000 hectares of land in the province, raising questions about China’s intentions in Cambodia.

Washington has repeatedly shared its concerns about the matter with Cambodia’s leadership.

In November last year, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen raising the issue of China’s presence and the land concession in Koh Kong awarded to Union Group.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Felter as well as U.S. Congressman Steve Chabot also expressed concerns about the Chinese presence in Cambodia.

But both the Cambodian government and the Chinese company denied the allegations and claim there is no hidden agenda behind the massive project.

Wang Chao, vice president of Union Group, said the $3.8 billion project is part of the “One Belt and One Road Initiative” of Chinese President Xi Jinping and purely for commercial and tourism purposes.

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