KT: Can you briefly tell us about your main tasks as the Kingdom’s ambassador to Japan?
H.E: As the ambassador, I represent the Cambodian government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan. I have four main tasks: to promote and expand Cambodian- Japanese relations and cooperation, protect Cambodia and its people’s interests, supervise the implementat ions of the diplomatic and economic policies and work with other countries’ embassies to deal with various issues and to expand Cambodia’s diplomatic ties.
KT: What are some of your achievements since coming into office a year ago?
H.E: First of all, we successfully implemented our annual plans. We celebrated the Victory Day (January 7), Independence Day (November 9) and other national and religious holidays with the Khmer community here. We are also organising annual Khmer language speech contests for Japanese university students who study Khmer language at our embassy. Furthermore, in July 2019, the Japanese and Cambodian business men we were in contact with, were invited to join our networking event called Japanese Business-Cultural Council. This is a mechanism to promote investments by Japanese entrepreneurs in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
KT: If a Japanese businessman asks you whether Cambodia is the right place for them to invest in, what will you tell him?
H.E: To be honest, no one has asked me this yet, but should I be approached, I will bring up two examples. The first one is Minebea, a major company with over 7,000 workers, which has been operating in Cambodia since 2017. The second example is AEON Mall, which is going to open its third branch in Cambodia. Meanwhile, the reforms introduced by Samdech Techo Hun Sen and the new investment law will make Cambodia even more attractive for Japanese investors.
KT: Have you found many Japanese entrepreneurs wanting to come to do business in Cambodia?
H.E: There are many who are interested, especially in the Kingdom’s tourism industry. I have also been pushing for that, in accordance with the government’s focus on the “smokeless industry” and the promotion of the local SMEs. In the meantime, many Japanese companies are operating within the agricultural sector, but Cambodia is lacking facilities to process those agricultural products so they have to go to our neighbouring countries. If we can have more investments for processing facilities, we can decrease the cost of raw materials. The labour cost is also cheaper in Cambodia.
KT: How has the Cambodian Embassy in Japan been helping Cambodian nationals here [Japan]?
H.E: Regarding the Khmer people here, nothing major has come up. They (Cambodian nationals) ask us to extend their visa or issue new passports for them. Meanwhile, we have been working to assist Cambodian migrant workers here in Japan. To date, there are 9,971 migrant workers from Cambodia, which is far more than the number of Khmer people living here. Part of our job for the migrant workers is dealing with exploitation by employers and improving working conditions, but all of these rarely happen. In 2019, we settled about 280 cases, eight of which were salary disputes and involved 39 workers. Those disputes account for the return of 25 million yen($234,920.00). We also extend orientation classes to the workers who come to Japan for the first time and we pay them visits whenever we can to ensure there are no cases of abuse by their employers.
KT: Which industry seems to have the most Cambodian workers?
H.E: Japan is now focusing on skilled labour. Since April last year, Japan has had a law that accepts skilled workers from other countries. They need 340,000 workers in the next five years. However, by the end of December 2019, it received only about 1,600 skilled workers, 117 of whom are Cambodian. They are required to work for at least five years and they receive the same salary as Japanese workers.
KT: Have the Cambodian workers already been trained in Cambodia or did they only receive their training after coming here?
H.E: Before coming to Japan, they were required to speak Japanese. There are several Japanese language schools in Cambodia. The companies in Japan contacted the recruitment agencies [who runs these schools] to find workers for their operations.
KT: How much does a skilled worker here make on average?
H.E: Although we have never asked them how much their salaries are, I can say their pay is the same as what Japanese workers receive. However, it also varies according to the cities and regions they work in. What is more important than the salary are the skills they have acquired while working here, which will be very important for their lives and future, especially when they go back to Cambodia.