Chinese investments in Cambodia will prompt more US investments if that country wants to influence the growth of democracy in the Kingdom, a panel of analysts said on Friday.
The discussion took place at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) on Friday under the theme The challenge on political geography between China and US.
The platform was arranged to discuss and analyse the challenges posed by the two powerful countries, especially while US President Donald Trump is in office.
RAC director Sok Touch said that benefits take an additionally important role to the non-aligned neutral principles of Cambodia.
In the context of Covid-19, he said the US, Japan and China have provided funding assistance to Cambodia. However, China is the first assisting country. He said if the US wants to influence Cambodia, it should bring investment rather than just democracy.
“If they want Cambodia to listen to China or the US, please don’t support only democracy. Don’t provide only hamburgers but provide the investment funds instead. If the US has four million workers in Cambodia it can do whatever it wants but there is nothing now,” he said.
Touch said the US should not worry about the presence of China in Cambodia because development takes a long time but in two years Chinese investment has made a great change.
“If you want to influence Cambodia, invest here. Don’t just draw up what we should do to call Cambodia a democracy,” he said.
Puy Kea, a correspondent from Japan’s Kyodo News Agency said Cambodia and other ASEAN countries would not throw the US away but also cannot challenge China.
He said this political stance always pops up at ASEAN meetings. He said based on his research, he understands that most of the ASEAN countries tend to take the US’ side but they look at China’s economic power in the region.
He said the US will continue to follow-up on allegations that China has a military base in Koh Kong Province. He mentioned that the airport development in Koh Kong is the trading connection to the area and that it is not a military matter.
“From the Khmer perspective the people get many benefits from China,” Kea said.
He used Sihanouk province as an example of building a new city. “If we think about Chinese investments, in just one or two years, the development of Preah Sihanouk province has been incredible.
“If we think about normal development, it would take 30 years and we don’t know how it would be like,” he said.
Kin Phea, the director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said if the US is willing to strengthen its relationship with Cambodia, it should show its intention through actions.
He said Cambodia is willing to reciprocate the bi-directional relationship depending on mutual benefits.
Cambodia, he said, is balancing its relations neutrally and respecting sovereignty and integrity depending on respected principles and mutual benefits.
However, Phea said Cambodia should be strong in itself and not dependent on larger powers.
“It is time for Cambodia to cut down the economic dependency on other countries, including a balance of the commercial scales,” Phea said.
Researcher and history professor Deab Sophal agreed and said Cambodia should be strong by itself in its politics and power management.