Cambodia and Australia will further strengthen their bilateral relations and cooperation, with experts urging the Kingdom to expand economic and investment collaboration with the Asia-Pacific powerhouse, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Foreign minister Sok Chenda Sophea and Australian ambassador Justin Whyatt made the pledge during an October 27 meeting in Phnom Penh, said the ministry on October 30.

Chenda Sophea and Whyatt expressed satisfaction with the close bonds of friendship, solidarity and cooperation between the two countries over the years. They also explored the wider possibility of deepening potential areas of cooperation, for the mutual benefit of the two peoples.

The two sides look forward to the Fourth Senior Officials Talks between the two foreign ministries, scheduled to take place in Cambodia next year, to further enhance bilateral relations.

Chenda Sophea reiterated his gratitude for Australia’s invaluable support and continued assistance in several areas, particularly agriculture, education and health, which included the supply of Covid-19 vaccines.

The ambassador expressed his admiration for Cambodia’s socio-economic development and reaffirmed his government’s commitment to exploring new areas of cooperation to further spur the Kingdom’s progress, according to the statement.

Chenda Sophea also offered his appreciation for Australia’s engagement with the ASEAN framework and confirmed that Prime Minister Hun Manet has accepted the invitation of his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese and would be present at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, to be held in Australia on March 4-6 next year. The two sides also exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest.

Foreign ministry spokesman An Sokkhoeurn could not be reached for comment on October 31.

Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, suggested on October 31 that Cambodia and Australia expand their existing cooperation.

He described Australia as a “referee” in the region when it comes to maintaining peace. Therefore, he believes that Cambodia should focus on establishing deeper cooperation mechanisms, not just in terms of defence but in strategic and economic areas.

“Cambodia should expand economic cooperation by encouraging more Australian investors to explore opportunities in the country as part of its economic diplomacy,” he said.