Over the past few decades, the relationship between Cambodia and Japan has been peaceful and prosperous. This relationship was created due to historical factors – Japan’s notable contributions towards the security and development of Cambodia, and also due to the commitment of the leaders of both nations.
After the Second World War, Cambodia announced that it would not claim any compensation for the damages which Japan had caused during the war. The people and government of Japan took this announcement as an encouragement for the country to restore, build, and promote the standard of living in Japan during the period that they had been experiencing difficulties.
Japan has reciprocated in this action, and in return has extended its willingness to assist Cambodia, through its participation in important activities for the promotion of peace and development in the Mekong country. In fact, in efforts to unite Cambodia, Japan has played a central role in orchestrating the compromise between the then Cambodian head of state and the trilateral government, especially between Hun Sen, former prime minister of the state of Cambodia, and King Norodom Sihanouk, former head of the trilateral government. Due to the sincere determination and talented efforts of the Japanese government, the international community was urged to decide on the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991.
As a signatory and coordinator in the search for peace in Cambodia, Japan had sent its forces to Cambodia for the first time to assist in maintaining the peace, despite the extensive two-year debate that took place in the Japanese Parliament on the deployment of Japanese Self-Defense Forces overseas – which many argued contravened Japan’s post-War War II constitution. The Japanese blue helmets served under the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) peacekeeping force. Japan also went further to facilitate the political reconciliation of Cambodia and nominated Yasushi Akashi, a former Japanese diplomat, to head UNTAC as the special representative of the UN secretary-general. Mr Akashi’s mandate was to organise national elections in 1993.
Following the 1993 UN-sponsored election, Japan continued its leading role, among many other countries, to restore and develop Cambodia’s social economy through crucial developmental assistance programmes under multilateral and bilateral parties.
Over the past decade, the Japanese government has encouraged Japanese investors to invest and establish production bases in Cambodia. The Japanese government was willing to assist in this due to the development, rule of law and peace in Cambodia. As a result, more than 200 Japanese companies have been operating in Cambodia.
Japan is an Asian country with rational judgment and a sound understanding of Cambodia’s political affairs and its development. Its approach to Cambodia is so different from that of the United States or Europe. This is the reason why Japan recognises the reality of the political situation in Cambodia and the efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia, irrespective of the conviction or persuasion of other political parties or groups. Moreover, Japanese businessmen and investors feel confident of the investment environment in Cambodia due to the fact that there are low security risks in the country.
Japan also acknowledges the electoral process and system in Cambodia, where no party can falsify the results, especially when the electoral system is supported by Japan through the provision of technological infrastructure to assist in voter registration. Therefore, the opposition’s allegations that the National Election Committee (NEC) or the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had stolen ballots is a complete manipulation and fabrication of facts. Indeed, two weeks before the events of Veng Sreng Road in early 2014 took place, ambassadors of three countries, including Japan, had notified the Royal Government of Cambodia of the plan of demonstrations that might lead to bloodshed, so the Royal Government could devise measures to avoid this tragedy.
Contrary to the actions of the three countries, including Japan, several NGOs and countries including countries that conspired with the opposition leaders condemned the Royal Government for using violence against peaceful protestors. In reality, however, the protestors were equipped with weapons, knives, blades, Molotov cocktails, etc. As Japan was fully aware of this situation, would Japan believe the protestors?
So far, Japan has a clear understanding of the current political environment and process of the rule of law in Cambodia. It is clear that the measures taken by the Royal Government are legal actions in accordance with legal principles. The arrest of Kem Sokha and the dissolution of the CNRP are clear cases of the implementation of laws to maintain peace and social order, in which Cambodian citizens are currently enjoying.
The protests of a small group of people in some countries do not represent the will of all Cambodian citizens in Cambodia and abroad, nor do they influence Japan’s common sense and decision to support the democratic process in Cambodia. Thus, Japan will not abandon Cambodia.
Chea Vandeth is a member of parliament for Takeo.