EVERY five years, the National Congress of Vietnam and Cambodia-Vietnam Relationship takes place in Vietnam to examine past achievements and failures and to determine a new direction for the improvement of the people, party and state.
The 11th congress taking place from January 12-19 has attracted great attention from both domestic and foreign observers and analysts. It has been attended by 1,377 delegates representing more than 3.6 million party members.
The expectations are high. According to reports by the Voices of Vietnam on January 11, the people centered development approach should be strictly pursued and relations between the people and the party should be promoted, market economy with socialist orientation needs to be upgraded to higher levels through democratisation and manpower management demands more attention.
It is believed that through such continued reform with clear vision, Vietnam can realise its goal to become an industrialised country in 2020.
During the solemn opening ceremony, the top leadership endorsed Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh thoughts as the cornerstone of the economic renewal process. Vietnam President Nguyen Minh Triet highlighted the legacy of Uncle Ho, whom he defined as “a man of world culture, while a tireless fighter for national independence”. Triet stressed the crucial role of the Doi moi (renovation) began in 1986, the increasing mobility of Vietnamese society and called for the process to be perfected.
He puts people at the centre stage of the reform. He stated: “The 11th congress is a big responsibility to the people to face reality and tell the truth and pursue our transition to socialism.”
With regard to diplomacy and foreign policy, Vietnam still pursues consistently the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development with openness, diversification and multilateralism. Economic integration is a significant part of foreign policy. Good relationships with neighbouring countries is given priority.
Vietnam is regarded as one of the rising stars in the region after a successful 25 years of Doi Moi (renovation). Vietnam can maintain an annual growth rate of about 7 percent and the poverty rate dropped more than half from 37 percent in 2000 to 14.8 percent in 2009 (according to Indexmundi).
The increasing role of Vietnam in the region is through proactive participation and the contribution of Vietnam in regional institutions, especially ASEAN and the Mekong Subregional Cooperation groups.
Vietnam and Cambodia share more than 1,000km of a long land border and both use the Mekong River. In recent years, bilateral relations have developed well with an emphasis on good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, comprehensive cooperation and long-term stability.
A regular exchange of high-level visits has been maintained to promote mutual trust and understanding. Relations between the Communist Party of Vietnam and the two Cambodian parties in the ruling coalition have also fared well. Both the Cambodian People’s Party and the Funcinpec Party sent congratulation messages to the Communist Party of Vietnam for the 11th National Congress.
Economic, trade and investment ties between Vietnam and Cambodia have grown and flourished constantly on a par with their political ties. Two-way trade has increased by 40 percent annually, reaching US$1.7 billion in 2008 and about $2 billion in 2010. According to a Phnom Penh Post report on November 22, 2010, bilateral trade between Cambodia and Vietnam increased by 36 percent in the first nine months of 2010.
The value of trade between the two neighbours reached $1.287 billion from January to September. However, Cambodia is facing a trade deficit with Vietnam. In 2009, the gap between Vietnamese exports and Cambodia’s was worth about $1.016 billion.
Vietnam’s main exports to Cambodia included machinery for agriculture, fertiliser, seafood and petroleum. Cambodia mainly ships garment materials and agricultural produce – such as wood, rubber, cashew nuts, rice and corn – to neighbouring Vietnam.
Vietnam’s investment in Cambodia has increased remarkably over the past years, with 50 projects licensed and valued at US$640 million. These projects mainly focus on the exploration and exploitation of minerals, oil and gas, the construction of hydro-power electric plants and power transmission lines, rubber plantations and developing transport infrastructure.
Vietnam is interested in building rubber processing factories in Cambodia in the near future.
For other functional cooperation, the two countries have jointly conducted projects on health care, education-training and science-technology. Since 1995, Vietnam has trained thousands of Cambodian officials, university graduates and post-graduates in economics, culture and science-technology. In 2010 Vietnam provided more than 500 scholarships to Cambodian students.
Chheang Vannarith is Executive Director of the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace.