Cambodia’s flag—under the great leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen—has to keep flying high regardless whether it’s a pleasant sunny day or a stormy one with thunder and lightening. We have no choice: As a nation of full independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, we have to do what we think is best for the interests of our beloved nation, her people and the world as a whole.

As solemnly stated by the Premier on Wednesday 15th December 2021, “Some have criticized me for not talking enough about human rights, but look, the right to live must be first. The most important of all is peace, followed by development. Thus, we need to protect peace at any cost and prevent any war from returning to Cambodia”.

Cambodia experienced nearly 30 years of civil war, starting with the coup in 1970 when the nation was forced into the Vietnam War (1965- 1975) by the superpowers as part of their Cold War.

Pol Pot ruled our country with bloody hands for 3 years, 8 months and 20 days during which nearly 2 million people – although no accurate data has been determined – died of starvation, execution, disease and forced labor under Democratic Kampuchea (DK) The DK plunged the country into an agrarian socialist society (17th April 1975 – 7th January 1979) with no modern civilization and isolated from the outside world.

The country is about to commemorate its 43rd anniversary of 7th January 2022, which marks the day that Cambodian survivors with strong support of Vietnam’s Army Volunteers toppled Khmer Rouge from power.

The Prime Minister, who had played a key part in the overthrow of the DK regime, said that, “We can not imagine how many more Cambodians would’ve died had the Khmer Rouge continued to rule this country.”

Cambodia had to rebuild its nation from scratch, although it did get some support from the communist bloc in the 80s. “I ate boiled banana picked from behind my house and mixed it with rice for survival. We had no clean water, we carried water from the Mekong River.” He recalled the time he served as foreign minister when they had small food rations after the fall of Khmer Rouge in early 1979 and difficulty through the 80s. The country at that time fought the return of Pol Pot to power on one hand and started to rebuild the country from ashes on the other. “Cambodia went through enough trying experiences in the past, such as sanctions in the 80s,” he said. At the same time, the Khmer Rouge occupied Cambodia’s U.N. seat with support from the liberal camp.

The Premier asked people to look at what has happened in the Middle Eastern countries, such as Libya, Iraq and Syria as the result of war, nothing but death and destruction. Such trends awakened in Cambodia the need to stick to its core value of protecting the hard-earned peace that has prevailed since late 1998 thanks to the win-win policy championed by the Premier and his team. The government will also celebrate its 23rd anniversary on 29th December 2021, the day that marks the end of the country’s war.

Peace has largely contributed to bringing social development and has also enabled Cambodia to help others. The poverty rate has now dropped to 17.8 per cent of the total 16 million population, coming down from 100 per cent after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

“We have to strengthen peace. We will never allow any hegemons to destroy our peace. We need to prevent war from returning to Cambodia. That is all I want,” said the Premier.

The Facts Speak for Themselves

Cambodia joined Asean in 1999, the World Trade Organization in 2004 and established the hybrid UN-Cambodia court, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), in 2006, that was for the trials of the supreme leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

More than 8,000 of Cambodia’s soldiers have been dispatched around the world to protect peace and do humanitarian work from 2006 to 2021. Under the UN umbrella they went to Sudan, Chad, Somalia, Cyprus, Yemen, Syria, and others.

Cambodia has diplomatic relations with 174 countries. Much of Cambodia’s cultural heritage, tangible and intangible has been inscribed on the world heritage list. That has played a role in attracting more than 6 million tourists a year with a 20 per cent increase per annum.

Phnom Penh gained international support for hosting the 37th session of the world heritage committee/UNESCO in June 2013 which more than 100 countries attended. The second international conference in 2019 was an Asia Pacific summit with 1,000 delegates from 49 countries. The theme was, “Addressing the Critical Challenges of Our Times: Peace, Reconciliation, Independence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values”.

The country has just recently finished its successful summit of ASEM 13th, from November 25-26, 2021, under the theme of, “Strengthening Multilateralism for Shared Growth”. It was attended by 50 national leaders drawn from the ten-country Asean bloc and the EU. It was held on video conference due to Covid-19.

Cambodia is not a Covid-19 exception with nearly 3,000 killed out of total infected cases of 120,390. The situation has now eased thanks to nearly 90 per cent of the population being vaccinated.

Cambodia has more than 34 tons of gold deposited with the National Bank of Cambodia, and banks overseas in Switzerland and UK. Its current GDP is more than $27 billion. The government has spent $2.3 billion out of its savings of $3 billion before the arrival of Covid-19. Cambodia’s foreign debt is more than $9 billion. That carries no risk.

Cambodia’s international foreign reserves were $27 billion in July 2020. The country has 138 commercial banks. Cambodia has exported more than $16 billion in goods to US, EU, Canada, Japan, China and South Korea, among others. Cambodia’s GDP per capita is now said to be more than $1,560 and that’s expected to reach $2,000 by 2023. The country has ambitions to become a middle-income country by 2030 and high-income country in 2050. In this respect, a long-lasting peace and a friendly foreign policy, such as a diplomatic approach to relations, are the centerpieces to attract investments.

More than 20 big bridges and more than 1,500 kms of highway have been built, along with three international standard airports, in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. The latter is the home of Angkor Wat. Cambodia’s budget has remarkably increased to more than $8 billon in 2022 from $3.4 billion in 2014.

More than $5 billion has been invested in the construction sector over the last 10 years, thanks to Cambodia’s industrial policy of 4.0 and its investment law, among other factors.

From 2014 to 2018 nearly 1,000 investment projects worth $23 billion were approved, creating millions of jobs. Cambodia has maintained double digit growth over the past few decades, it is ranked 6th in Asia.

“I could not recognize my country, at my first glance at TV, thanks to so much development,” PM Hun Sen said on Wednesday.

“Looking back to our old days with mines everywhere land was worthless. Now we fight over land thanks to skyrocketing prices,” he spoke at the opening of the 5-star Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh Hotel, a $180 million investment.

Cambodia has signed bilateral trade deals with China and Republic of Korea (South Korea), separately this year. The country is diversifying its trade and investment and is ready to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Hit hard by Covid-19 for nearly two years, Cambodia’s growth is projected at 3 percent for 2021; higher growth is expected in the coming years.

PM’s trip to Myanmar

Premier Hun Sen will visit Myanmar on 7 and 8 January 2022 in his capacity as the chair of Asean. He believes there needs to be greater understanding of the complex situation in Myanmar. That is part of his diplomatic effort, to bring the ten-country bloc back on track.

Speaking honestly and frankly, the Premier said that although he has experience from the negotiating skills he learned from past dealings with enemies, such as the Khmer Rouge, he asked the public not to have too much confidence from this trip since others have failed before him.

“Some will wait and see how Cambodia will handle the case of Myanmar. I will try to address the problem so that the situation will be improved”.

“Do not expect too much from Cambodia as chair of Asean, but at the same time do not insult Cambodia,” he stressed with a firm tone.

The Premier also asked that, “If we do not work with Myanmar who then can we work with? We have to work with Myanmar to understand the different positions. I have responsibility to get the 10 countries of Asean back on track, not 9”.

General Min Aung Hlaing is a Myanmar politician and army general who is the chairman of the State Administration Council (SAC) since he seized power in February 2021.

The leaders of the summit of ASEM 13th excluded the army general, but as friend of Asean, Cambodia’s PM could not afford to see Myanmar stay outside Asean charter.

It is a big diplomatic burden for Cambodia to understand how to win the hearts of not only the army general but also the rest of Asean’s leaders in order to get Myanmar to return to the bloc. PM Hun Sen appointed Deputy PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Prak Sokhonn, as special representative of Cambodia for Asean, while Cham Prasidh, another high-profile Minister of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, will accompany the Premier to Myanmar.

“I try to ease the tension of the Myanmar situation. We must have consensus of the 10-country bloc, not 9 of Asean. We must restore Asean,” said the Premier.

“I’m just following the Asean charter. Myanmar is a state and whether you like or not you have to work with those who are in power. You cannot avoid it. Such as in the case of the Taliban administration of Afghanistan, you have to work with them”.

“We want to find out what the common interest is that the concerned parties can agree on. We will then see how many points can be agreed first. We will leave the difficult parts to solve at a later stage,” the Premier said of his approach, adding that he wants to see Asean honor its decision and join hands to address other issues with the stakeholders, such as China in the context of the South China Sea.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press

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