The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation maintained on Monday that the Kingdom will not sacrifice its national sovereignty in exchange for foreign aid.
In a press release issued following the January 17-18 Asean Foreign Ministers’ Retreat (AMM Retreat) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn said Cambodia had previously experienced hardships resulting from international sanctions and isolation and therefore would not bow to international pressure.
“Cambodia will not trade its sovereignty for any assistance. In the past, Cambodia has gone through a hard time,” Sokhonn said.
The statement came after the EU decided to impose tariffs on rice from Cambodia. The decision will be in effect for three years and is expected to cost the country’s rice sector around $53 million in the first year based on the amount the Kingdom exported to the EU last year.
The minister also expressed concerns over the international community’s double standard, which favours wealthier countries.
“The use of a double standard approach to pick and choose only areas that suit and benefit stronger countries [is worrisome],” said the statement.
Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) president Sok Touch said a lack of unity among Asean member states has given way to international interference into the block’s internal affairs.
“We need to have good policies in place. The economy goes hand-in-hand with politics, so if [world powers] want us to follow a certain political path they will exert pressure on us.
“While we refuse to trade sovereignty for foreign aid, we must be well-prepared – whom and what should we turn to if there is no foreign assistance?
“We need to build stronger ties with countries that have common goals, be it Japan, South Korea, China, Russia or the Arab alliance,” he said.
Cambodia has seen tensions with certain members of the international community heighten in recent months.
Western nations, namely the EU and the US, have threatened to withdraw preferential trading agreements with the Kingdom over what they regard as the deterioration of democracy and press freedom in the country since the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in November 2017.
Cambodian government officials, however, have labelled the pressure an affront to the country’s sovereignty.