Cambodia’s Future Forum think tank yesterday marked Independence Day by releasing its first set of proposals, calling on the ruling and opposition parties to form a unified foreign policy ahead of the 2018 election.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen and Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy, the independent public policy research hub – founded earlier this year by prominent analyst and human rights activist Ou Virak – urged the parties to “establish their many similarities, and compromise on their few differences in order to formulate an agreed message” on foreign policy.
“Despite all the antagonistic rhetoric,” the two main political parties share many of the same goals when it comes to foreign policy, according to Future Forum.
“Both parties represent the Cambodian people, neither party wants war, either with China or the US, and least of all with Vietnam, and both parties are working towards the peaceful development of Cambodia.”
In the 12-page letter, the think tank sets out a detailed set of policy proposals for the Kingdom to pursue towards regional and global powers.
Central to its proposals, the forum calls on Cambodia to adopt a “non-aligned foreign policy”, that sees it befriend both China and the US while staying out of “international squabbles that are beyond its immediate concern”, such as the South China Sea.
Regarding Vietnam, it calls on all parties to “refrain from inciting violence, racial hatred or discrimination”, and to use diplomacy to “realise the permanent demarcation of the shared borderland to defuse tensions”.
“Cambodia needs to balance its relationship with China and the US, it needs to invest in ASEAN, both economically and politically, it needs to strengthen relations with its two large neighbours, Vietnam and Thailand – and to a lesser extent with Laos, and it needs to hedge its position by pivoting towards India,” it concludes.
It adds that “an even wiser foreign policy” would also see Cambodia “improving relations with other key players in the region”, including Japan and South Korea.
The think tank notes that foreign policy should be pursued in the “long-term strategic interests of the country, regardless of which political party holds power in Cambodia”.
Virak yesterday said the think tank chose to approach foreign policy in its first set of proposals because it is “one of the most important issues”, and an area where potential differences between the two parties are minimal.
The proposals, however, were met yesterday with mixed reactions from the CPP and CNRP.
“For the long term and in the non-partisan interest of Cambodia, I agree with the approach,” said Rainsy, noting that “common points” of foreign policy between the parties included “Cambodia’s neutrality on the international scene, [the] One-China policy [and] promoting and serving peace worldwide.”
The CPP, however, dismissed the think tank’s proposals altogether.
“Why should the CPP consider this? We are a strong party . . . Why do we need to take the opinions or proposals of anyone?” asked CPP spokesman Suos Yara.
“Individual parties have their own opinions. We have our own ideas – we are quite independent on this matter.”