Prime Minister Hun Sen has reiterated that Cambodia does not support the forceful occupation of one country by another, in comments that apparently referred to the Russian-Ukraine conflict as an “invasion”.
“We don’t support the invasion of one country by another. This is our absolutely firm position,” he said while presiding over the inauguration of National Road 21 connecting Kandal province to the Cambodia-Vietnam border.
“This is not a small issue because it creates a bad habit for the world: the stronger nation attacking the weaker one. So, if the stronger nation attacks the weaker one, will they attack us [Cambodia]? Then who will help us? This must be clear-cut. This is why we must have a clear position,” he explained.
Cambodia was one of 141 countries to co-sponsor the draft resolution of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on March 2 condemning Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine. Hun Sen revealed recently that there were countries that allegedly lobbied for Cambodia to abstain on the Russia-Ukraine vote, but did not state which ones.
“We will vote like how we had done with the UN [Resolution]. There was actually someone who lobbied us to vote ‘abstention’ on the Russia-Ukraine issue.
“I told our [Cambodian] diplomats that we have to take a clear and unwavering stance, and we’ve already made it clear in our foreign policy: we will not abstain anymore,” he said.
The premier said the Russia-Ukraine conflict is a “complex” issue which required Cambodia to vocalise their position. He said the Kingdom had already made it clear that it was against the invasion of Iraq led by the US and that it will always be against the use of force, or threats to use force.
“So, I am sending out my order now to our diplomats that when there is a Resolution about the Russia-Ukraine war, we need to vote against the invasion. We are against invasion or use of force,” he said.
He said the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict could now be observed worldwide. Cambodia has already felt the pinch through the increase in fuel prices, he said, declaring that the impacts of the offensive have been “much more than that caused by Covid-19”.
“If the war cannot be ended soon, we don’t know in which direction the world will move towards – whether it arrives at World War III or nuclear war.
“We appeal to both sides to reach a ceasefire and begin negotiations to end this war. Cambodia will support all approaches to achieve peace,” he said.
Following Hun Sen’s remark, the French embassy in Phnom Penh tweeted: “France welcomes Cambodia’s firm, clear and unambiguous position on Russian aggression in Ukraine.”
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said Hun Sen’s position against any sort of invasion reflects what has been set out in the Kingdom’s Constitution and that of the UN.
Echoing Hun Sen’s remarks, Phea said: “If we are not against any invasion, it will create a habit in which a big or strong county can do harm to a smaller one. As we know, Cambodia is a small country.
“What a small state like Cambodia needs are strong international laws to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.