Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said on his Facebook page that the number of people celebrating Chinese New Year in Cambodia is increasing.
Mr Hun Sen said Cambodia now celebrates three New Year celebrations annually, including New Year’s Eve, and the Chinese and Khmer New Year.
“In the past, we did not see many people celebrating Chinese New Year, but today there are more and more,” he said. “The nation has peace and citizens have freedom to fully choose religious beliefs, as well as the celebration of festivals according to their traditions.”
Mr Hun Sen also posted a picture of himself and his family at Great Wall of China from 27 years ago.
“I would like to show a picture taken in the 1991, when my wife and I visited the Great Wall of China with a Supreme National Council delegation before signing the Paris Peace Agreements on October 23, 1991,” he said.
The rise of Chinese investors and Khmer-Chinese residents in the country has led to outcry from Khmer citizens bemoaning the potential influence of China over the kingdom.
Relations between China and Cambodia date back to the Angkor era in the 13th century, when Chinese emissary Zhou Daguan, who was also known by his Khmer name of Chiv Ta Koan, visited the kingdom for one year, from 1296 to 1297.
Cambodia and China have always had close ties, but these were challenged when China became communist after the end of World War II. There were also challenges after Cambodia emerged from the French colonial period in the mid-20th century.
Despite this, China and Cambodia have remained close allies, in part because of the growing influence of the United States in the region.
King Norodom Sihanouk many years ago approached China’s communists to try to balance the influence of Thailand and South Vietnam on Cambodia.
China’s influence on Cambodia has been on the up since Mr Hun Sen took office in 1997.
According to a report by the Council for the Development of Cambodia, fixed asset investments from China accounted for 20.2 percent of the total investments in Cambodia from 1994 to 2017.
In 2017, Cambodia attracted fixed asset investments of $1.43 billion from China, or 27 percent of the total investments in the country last year.
Social analyst San Chey said the rise of Chinese New Year celebrations was likely due to a rise in the number of Cambodians with Chinese roots through marriage.
Pung Kheav Se, president of the Association of Khmer-Chinese, said there were 200,000 Chinese citizens doing business in the country.
Mr Kheav Se said that the number of Chinese investors in Cambodia had increased because of favourable and open policies for them.
Sambo Manara, a history professor, said that although there were now more Khmer people with Chinese descent in the kingdom, it would not affect traditional Cambodian culture, noting the Chinese also celebrated some Khmer holidays.
“There are no limits when people connect through love,” he said.