China has thrown its support behind Cambodia, vowing cooperation on all issues of national security, including the Kem Sokha treason case.
China’s position was spelled out during a visit to Cambodia by Wang Jiarui, vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Mr Wang visited National Assembly president Heng Samrin yesterday.
Mr Samrin’s adviser San Sarana said China fully supported the government’s work to protect Cambodian sovereignty during this time of political turmoil.
The controversial arrest of CNRP leader Kem Sokha on treason charges this week was discussed during the talks.
“China will help Cambodia in every circumstance,” Mr Sarana said. “Cambodia has the full backing of China. Cambodia’s success is China’s success. Challenges for Cambodia are challenges for China.”
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Chinese support for the government’s actions against Mr Sokha is to be expected, since China has a strategy to benefit from good relations with Cambodia, particularly in relation to its disputes in the South China Sea.
Mr Mong Hay added that both China and Vietnam were attempting to stop Cambodia from becoming a democratic country with a multi-party political system.and respect for human rights.
“In the past, the Chinese supported the Khmer Rouge with weapons and strategies for killing Khmers,” he said. “Now they are doing the same again and giving weapons to the government.”
But he warned China was dismantling that progress.
“This government hates the US and so does China, but they still allow their people to go and study in the US to broaden their minds. For us, following China is damaging democracy. China has never had a good management system for its country,” he said.
Ear Sophal, author of “Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy” and an associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles, said China’s unconditional support for Phnom Penh is part of its endeavour to make Cambodia more like China politically.
North Korea has this kind of no questions asked relationship with China, he added.
Mr Sokha’s arrest and detention was widely condemned by the international community, including the EU, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, America and Australia.
However, speaking at a meeting with workers on Sunday, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on foreign countries not to interfere in Cambodia’s affairs, alleging the United States had been helping the opposition CNRP to invoke “regime change”.
Relations between Cambodia and China date back at least to the 13th century, when Chinese emissary Zhou Daguan, also known by his Khmer language name Chiv Ta Koan, visited the Kingdom of Angkor for one year, from 1296 to 1297.
Mr Hun Sen first visited China as leader of Cambodia in February 1999 and returned with an interest-free loan of $200 million, in addition to a pledge of $18.3 million in aid from Beijing.
Millions of dollars in financial aid and loans have continued to flow into Cambodia since then, while bilateral trade between the countries was targeted to hit $5 billion this year.