Russia and Cambodia remain good friends and bilateral ties are rooted in the 1980s when Russians gave a helping hand to Cambodians, who had just overcome the hardship of the Pol Pot regime, writes H.E. Dmitry Tsvetkov.
Today, on June 12, we celebrate the National Day of Russia, which symbolises the unity of our country, our values and way of life with our great past. Nowadays my country strengthens its political and economic institutions and looks to the future with confidence.
The Russian Federation pursues a foreign policy aimed at forming a stable system of international relations on the basis of universally recognised principles of mutual respect, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries in order to ensure reliable and equal security of every member of the world community.
The Asia-Pacific region is one of the important areas for cooperation. Cambodia, being a part of it, remains the close friend of Russia.
Looking back at the path we have travelled over the last year in developing the Russian-Cambodian ties, I am delighted to note the ongoing positive trend, which undoubtedly speaks loud about the good future of this relationship, where friendship, mutual understanding and respect for interests of each other are not simply words, but the predefined constant or, if you like, an invariable reality proved and tested by time.
This bilateral interaction is rooted in the considerable groundwork done in 1980s, when my country gave a helping hand to the people of Cambodia, who had overcome the hardship of the Pol Pot regime. Apart from rendering urgent economic and technical assistance, for example, in building and modernising hospitals, colleges, roads, bridges as well as other socio-economic infrastructure, the USSR and later Russia contributed highly to development of human resources of the Kingdom, including training of specialists, who continue to play an important role in the strengthening of the national economy (more than 8,000 Cambodians were educated in the USSR and Russia).
What we witness now is the intensification of summit-level and high level political dialogue activated during the mutual visits of the prime ministers of both countries in 2015–2016, which produced a plethora of agreements. The impetus to their implementation was given at the recent meeting between our Prime Ministers H.E. Mr Dmitry Medvedev and Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen on the sidelines of the 12th East Asia Summit on November 12, 2017. The practice of annual contacts of our foreign ministers which started in 2015 continues on to this day – H.E. Mr Sergey Lavrov and H.E. Mr Prak Sokhonn had a substantial discussion on the topics of cooperation on international, regional and bilateral issues in August 2017 in Moscow.
Further steps were taken to consolidate the legal basis of bilateral relations. A total of eight joint intergovernmental and interagency documents have been signed in 2017, in particular in the fields of energy, tourism, environment protection, agriculture etc.
Inter-parliamentary dimension of cooperation between our nations is another perspective field. Russian and Cambodian delegations interacted also within the framework and on the sidelines of various meetings of the Interparliamentary Union, Asian Parliamentary Assembly etc. Within only five months there were two meetings between H.E. Mr Evgeniy Bushmin, Deputy Chairman of the Federal Council of the Russian Federation and H.E. Mr Tep Ngorn, Second Deputy President of the Senate of the Kingdom of Cambodia at the sidelines of the 2nd Meeting of Speakers of Eurasian Countries’ Parliaments last June and the 137th Assembly of the Interparliamentary Union last October.
Officials from the Cambodian Senate were welcomed in Moscow for training courses organised by the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The additional dynamics was imparted to the inter-party dialogue on the basis of the Agreement on Interaction and Cooperation between All-Russian political party “United Russia” and the Cambodian People’s Party signed in 2016. In December 2017 in Vladivostok the CPP delegation participated in the round table (The role of political parties in cooperation between Russia and Asean), organised by the Russia’s ruling party. United Russia and the CPP coordinate their actions also on a multilateral level – within the framework of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) and the Asia Cultural Council of ICAPP.
Special focus is on unleashing the considerable potential of bilateral economic interaction. The key mechanism to support these efforts is the Intergovernmental Russian-Cambodian Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation (IRCC), whose 10th session was held last August. One should mention that apart from contributing to the gradual increase in bilateral trade, the Commission plays an important role in encompassing all range of trade, economic and investment projects by providing a convenient platform for their promotion and coordination. The active work, which is underway in the framework of the Commission, encourages the expansion of collaboration between the business communities and administrative units of our countries. In particular, the last session of the IRCC provided positive impetus to the work on a number of projects in such spheres as industry, energy, ICT, tourism and so on.
In line with the overall development of bilateral trade and economic relations, high momentum of cooperation is achieved in the multilateral formats – especially with the Eurasian Economic Union. In December 2017 Phnom Penh hosted the first ever EAEU-Cambodia Business Forum that became a platform for entrepreneurial interaction between the Union and the Kingdom opening more communication lines and launching discussions on mutually beneficial projects.
This was a milestone event, which one could consider as a new step of Cambodia towards becoming a part of the interlinked network, which is being designed to connect the Eurasian and Asia Pacific space. The idea of establishment of the EAEU-Cambodia Business Council was also put forward at the Forum by the Cambodian side. The second meeting of Joint Working Group took place in Moscow on May 28 this year, where H.E. Mrs Tatyana Valovaya, Minister in Charge of Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasian Economic Commission and H.E. Mrs Tekreth Kamrang, Secretary of State of Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce, confirmed their commitments to maintain the same level of activity.
There are good perspectives for EAEU-Cambodia cooperation in developing trade and economic ties, including localisation of high-tech manufacturing from the Union countries in Cambodia, establishment of value-added chains linking the six countries, and cooperation in such areas as rising investment in Cambodia’s tourism and healthcare, ports and airports infrastructure, light industry and textiles, and IT.
One may also notice a stable tendency of progressive development in humanitarian cooperation, especially in the areas of education, youth policy and culture. The high stable rate of people-to-people contacts is maintained: in 2017 Cambodian delegations participated in a number of remarkable events, such as International Ministerial Meeting on the issues of youth policy and the XIX World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi last October.
Taking into account that the South-East Asia countries are among the popular tourist destinations, there is a great potential for cooperation in the respective sphere, which could be considered as one of the most promising areas of the Russian-Cambodian interaction. It seems that the active promotion of the Cambodian tourist product on the Russian services market, especially in the regions of Siberia and Far East, could undoubtedly contribute to increasing the number of the Russian travelers in the Kingdom. It goes without saying that turning of Cambodia into an important tourist destination for the Russian citizens would facilitate the opening of direct flights between our countries.
I am confident that Russian-Cambodian ties will continue to expand and grow more strong and mature. Undoubtedly, by supporting the high intensity of bilateral contacts and experience exchange our two countries can gain the unique opportunity to effectively address global and national challenges together. Thanks to all these efforts and the longtime history of close people-to-people contacts, Russia and Cambodia are able to continue to perform the intensive work of maintaining and developing firm relations of mutual friendship and trust for the benefit of our peoples.
H.E. Dmitry Tsvetkov is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Cambodia.