Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the 23 Cambodian families living in Ukraine to “show solidarity” with the Ukrainian people by remaining in the country, as he and his visiting Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida called for the immediate withdrawal of military forces from the besieged country in a wide-ranging meeting that also touched on matters of bilateral cooperation.

“Ukrainian people are still living there [in their country]. We have to live with them – don’t run away from them,” Hun Sen said on March 21 while presiding over the inauguration of the Cambodia-China Friendship Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation earlier said that the 23 families have lived in Ukraine since their members first studied there in the 1980s and 1990s, and have continued to reside in the country ever since. The ministry confirmed that there are no Cambodian students currently enrolled in any Ukrainian institution.

Hun Sen compared the situation in Ukraine to that of China early in 2020, when there was a high degree of panic surrounding Covid-19, at which point he told Cambodian students living there – especially in Wuhan – to remain in the country. He also recalled his appeal in 2017 to Cambodians living in South Korea not to leave the country during the nuclear crisis instigated by North Korea.

In a joint press statement addressing Kishida’s visit to Cambodia from March 20-21, both leaders touched on the Ukraine issue, noting that the two countries had co-sponsored the UN Resolution earlier this month deploring Russia’s “military operation” in Ukraine.

Hun Sen and Kishida shared the view that aggression against a UN member state “infringes upon its sovereignty and territorial integrity, constitutes a serious violation of international law prohibiting the use of force, and is a grave breach of the UN Charter”.

The two leaders said they recognised that Russia’s military action jeopardises the foundation of the international order, which does not accept any unilateral change of the internationally recognised borders by force.

“In the same spirit, the two prime ministers confirmed their commitment to preserve peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific,” the joint statement said.

Hun Sen reiterated his long-held belief that a war can never result in the end of another war, and that a peaceful resolution should instead be pursued.

The two leaders urged an “immediate stop to the use of force and the subsequent withdrawal of military forces from the territory of Ukraine”.

They stressed that neither threat nor the use of any kind of weapons of mass destruction can be accepted on any occasion, and that any armed attack on and threat against nuclear facilities dedicated to peaceful purposes constitutes a violation of international law.

“Early realisation” of UN Security Council reform was necessary to deal with serious issues facing the international community, as demonstrated by the situation in Ukraine, they said.

Addressing matters of bilateral cooperation, Hun Sen said he “highly appreciated” Japan’s support of Cambodia’s development sectors, naming in particular the construction of essential infrastructure such as seaports, bridges, roads, and electricity and water supply.

The leaders committed to fully cooperating to realise the vision of Sihanoukville Port as a “hub of principal ports” not just for Cambodia but the Mekong region and beyond, and committed to actively explore new opportunities for the sustainable growth of Cambodia”, such as in the realm of infrastructural development.

Both leaders also touched on issues of democracy, human rights and rule of law.

According to the press statement, Kishida expressed his intention to support the promotion of democracy and the rule of law, such as by holding elections in a way that reflects the diverse voices of the Cambodian people through projects such as the promotion of dialogue between the Cambodian government and civil society, the enhancement of governance through civic engagement, and technical legal assistance.

Hun Sen said he appreciated Japan’s support in these fields, and expressed his intention to make further efforts to embed the outcomes of such aid in Cambodian society. He also expressed gratitude for Japan’s efforts as the penholder of the resolution on Advisory Services and Technical Assistance for Cambodia at the UN Human Rights Council, which urges the Cambodian government to take measures to improve its human rights situation.

Cambodia and Japan will be commemorating the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations as well as the 10th anniversary of their strategic partnership next year. Both leaders said they were pleased to elevate bilateral ties to a new level as well as to dispatch diplomatic authorities to carry out necessary studies to achieve that goal in a concrete manner.