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‘No foreign navy basing rights granted’

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn speaks with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne. MoFA

Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn reaffirmed that the Kingdom strongly prohibits the setting up of any foreign military base within its borders.

The statement was made on Tuesday during Mr Sokhonn’s telephone conversation with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne, also the Minister for Women.

“Cambodia’s constitutional principle forbids the presence of any foreign military base within its sovereign territory,” he said, adding the same remarks had been expressed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday Mr Sokhonn imparted the clarification as Ms Payne, in the past, had raised concerns over the alleged presence of a Chinese naval outpost in the Kingdom.

In response, Ms Payne acknowledged the clarification.

In July last year, the Wall Street Journal published a report saying a secret deal had been struck between China and Cambodia. The deal, it said, allowed China to use the Ream Naval Base, an allegation vehemently denied by both countries. The prime minister, during a speech on Monday, opened the Ream Naval Base in Sihanoukville for visitations and joint military exercises with other foreign powers. However, he said while countries are welcome to conduct military drills with the Kingdom, the country will never host a foreign military base within its territory as it would violate the neutrality provisions of the Constitution.

Addressing other countries, Mr Hun Sen said: “We need financial support from China but if you want to support us, we will welcome your assistance as well.”

In a press release yesterday, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said Mr Sokhonn also underscored the country’s intention to organise an event for Women in Peace and Security and other possible women empowerment collaborations with Australia, on the sidelines of the upcoming 13th Asia-Europe Summit, which is slated to push through in the capital this November.

The initiative is a response to Ms Payne’s earlier announcement to promote cooperation on women’s affairs.

Both ministers expressed gratitude for the mutual assistance extended to their nations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement said. Covered during the conversation, it added, was a discussion on how multilateralism can be utilised to garner solidarity and cooperation in the fight against the pandemic.

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