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How Cambodia can balance its foreign policy

Seun Sam / Share:
A mocked-up image of the Chinese and US flags on a container ship. Supplied

Cambodia was the last member of the Asean community which consists of 10 members. In 2012, when Cambodia was the chair of the Asean Community, Cambodia attracted many regional and international media to write news and articles about the Kingdom.

Since 2012, many countries in the Asean Community and the European Union have accused Cambodia of being biased toward China and that time some members of the Asean Community wanted Cambodia to leave the association.

There are Cambodian scholars and Western scholars who have written books and articles about Cambodia. Most of those scholars recommended the Royal Government of Cambodia to balance its foreign policy with all countries in the world, not to have good relations only with China. And the Cambodian government should not mainly depend on China to help Cambodia all the time. There are many good recommendations provided by local and international scholars that the Cambodian government should follow.

How can the Cambodian government or other governments balance their foreign policy? That’s a big question. It’s very easy to say “Balancing Policy”, but very difficult to perform. Does the US government balance its foreign policy with all countries and nation groups in the world? What about Canada, France, China, Vietnam and the EU? As a matter of fact, all countries are biased to their main alliances already.

What kind of countries should be treated as the alliance of one specific country? A country that provides good geopolitics, good trade exchange or big business, has strong military power and a country that supports each other on the international stage could be treated as an alliance. Everyone is biased and all countries are biased. That’s nature and we cannot reject that reality.

In international theory: no friend, no enemy but benefits for each nation. The United States of America taught that theory already, for instance, how the US negotiated with Vietnam and cancelled the debts that Vietnam owed the United States, but did not cancel the debts that Cambodia owed the US during the Lon Nol regime which was supported by the US at that time. Why? Vietnam has the special geopolitics which are very important for the US. Vietnam and the US have a joint enemy is China. Is that the balance of foreign policy of the US Government? The US converted from enemy to friends with Vietnam. There are many examples to show the realities of this theory but still there are uneducated people who are not aware of this teaching.

Economic development, social security, education opportunity, political stability or benefits are
the main driving force leading one country to implement their strategy and foreign policy.

The most important things are to know who your friends are and who your enemies in any circumstances are. Self-strengthening is the most important thing to do for each nation.

Cambodia is still weak and needs to adjust many things. Cambodia needs to know the strong and weak points inside the country and then try to reform each point step-by-step.

Cambodia should know what kind of activities should be treated as a balancing act in foreign policy and whether they are acceptable for the whole nation and abide by international and local laws. All in all, everyone is biased to their beloved one, and all countries are biased to their alliances and each alliance provides benefits for each nation.


Seun Sam is a public relations officer of the Royal Academy of Cambodia

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