A Cambodian scholar said that Cambodia’s foreign policy towards its neighbours and other countries in the world has been on the right track.
In a Cross Talk interview with Khmer Times on Monday, Leng Thearith, Director of Center for Strategic Studies, said the Kingdom’s foreign policy has improved after the country held its 1993 UN-brokered national election, and has been reformed over the past three years, especially in capacity building and strategic analysis.
Mr Thearith said the Kingdom has good relations with other countries thanks to the government’s efforts in integrating the country into the region as a member of the Asean and the World Trade Organisation.
However, he said as a small state, Cambodia has limited strategic space to manoeuvre while its foreign policy dynamics face considerable challenges.
“It’s important for a small state like Cambodia to prevent itself from any attack that might be caused by powerful states,” he said. “We must oppose them in order to protect our sovereignty but at the same time, we must cooperate with those states to ensure good relations.”
Mr Thearith said that Cambodia is now seen leaning towards China after the government received strong support from China through aid and loans without strings attached, noting that the country’s current approach toward the United States and the European Union will not be helpful in the long run.
“For now, I’m sure that the government is on the right track. Cambodia’s foreign policy’s behaviour changes from time to time,” he said. “Although Cambodia is now leaning towards China, I think the country will change and turn to other developed countries like Japan.”
Mr Thearith said that the government slammed the EU and the US because they meddled in Cambodia’s internal affairs, but later should mend ties for development benefits.
“For now, the government can turn its back on the EU and the United States because they interfere in the country’s political issue and sovereignty,” he said. “However, in the upcoming years, the government should restore the relations and take advantage of them as development partners.”
The EU last week started the process of intense monitoring and engagement for six months that could lead to the temporary suspension of the EBA trade scheme over perceived human rights setbacks and the decline of democracy following the dissolution of the CNRP.
In response, the Cambodian government condemned the EU trade threat as an extreme injustice, accusing it of using double standards in its treatment of Cambodia.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that the country’s current foreign policy is not on the right track as it is sucked in the Sino-American conflict.
“Now Cambodia is being sucked in the new Pacific war and specially the Sino-American conflict,” he said, noting that the foreign policy behaviour has led Cambodia back to the pre-1970 situation where it was gradually sucked in the then ongoing international conflicts.