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AVI: Take BRI criticisms on board

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Officials attend a workshop on geopolitical trends and the emergence of the digital economy at the Senate’s Library Hall in Phnom Penh on Thursday. Heng Chivoan

AVI: Take BRI criticisms on board

Nearly 100 officials and researchers attended a workshop on geopolitical trends and the emergence of the digital economy at the Senate’s Library Hall on Thursday.

Presentations were made and discussions held on geopolitical trends in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Some experts claimed that Cambodia could avoid accusations from the West of bias towards China if the Kingdom could resolve some questions regarding the perceived negative consequences of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The comments came as environmental management and security issues are looked at as the Kingdom receives investment from China.

Chheng Kimlong, the director of the Innovation and Democratic Governance Centre at the Asian Vision Institute (AVI), said Cambodia had been criticised for showing perceived bias towards China to receive benefits from its Belt and Road Initiative without caring about any negative consequences.

He said the Cambodian government must take such consequences into greater consideration.

“There is criticism over environmental, management and security consequences, and I think the government must take these into thorough consideration."

“If we can reduce the negative consequences, then we can avoid accusations from the West that we have turned towards China to only get benefits without considering any negative effects of the Belt and Road project,” Kimlong said.

More than 70 nations around the world have supported China’s Belt and Road Initiative since 2013.

However, the ambitious project, which focuses on loans for infrastructure, has met with concerns that some countries will fall into China’s debt trap.

In late April, at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia would not fall into a debt trap as it is an independent and sovereign country and would choose only projects that were necessary.

Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said no matter how well Cambodia did, it could not avoid criticism from the West.

He said accusations of bias towards China were not due to security or environmental concerns, but because China and the US are competing to strengthen their influence in the region and the world.

“As we now see, China is on a fast journey in competing for influence both politically and economically, and it is the second largest economy after the US, so the Americans are concerned. If we talk about the West, the US is the big brother,” Phea said.

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