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Deputy PM Prak Sokhonn holds Australia bilateral cooperation talks

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Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn meets with Australian Senate president Scott Ryan on Saturday. Photo supplied

Deputy PM Prak Sokhonn holds Australia bilateral cooperation talks

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn met with Australian Senate president Scott Ryan on Saturday to discuss bilateral cooperation between the two nations.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ket Sophann could not be reached for comment on Sunday, but he told Fresh News on Saturday that Ryan had promised to “deeply” strengthen cooperation with Cambodia.

“Scott Ryan confirmed that the Australian government would firmly and deeply cooperate with Cambodia as well as the Cambodian parliament, especially on education and tourism,” Sophann said as quoted by Fresh News.

He said Ryan had praised Cambodia’s organisation of the Annual Meeting of Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum [APPF] in Siem Reap.

Sophann said Sokhonn had explained that 20 political parties had taken part in last year’s national elections, with the incumbent Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) winning a landslide victory.

Sophann said Sokhonn vowed that constituents would be properly served even though there was only the CPP present in the National Assembly, with the Foreign Affairs Minister explaining to Ryan that the other political parties that had participated had formed a “consultation group” to be given the opportunity to help serve the people.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said Ryan’s commitment to cooperation with Cambodia gave “justice” to Cambodia and would make the Kingdom and Australia friends that could be mutually trusted.

“This is the pride of the Cambodian people who receive justice from the president of the Australian Senate, who has in the past contributed to Cambodia finding peace. It’s not like the slandering of the ignorant group of people,” Eysan said.

The Saturday meeting also touched on the reports of an alleged Chinese naval base in Koh Kong province. Sokhonn, according to Fresh News, reiterated the government’s stance that foreign troops are not allowed a presence on Cambodian territory.

“Concerning the reports of a military base in Cambodia, [Sokhonn] confirmed that Prime Minister [Hun Sen] had written a letter to US Vice President Mike Pence stressing that Cambodia respects its Constitution."

“[The Constitution] does not allow foreign militaries present on Cambodian territory, and [Cambodia] does not need the presence of [a foreign military] or of foreign troops to fight against anyone,” Sophan said, as quoted by Fresh News.

A spokesperson for the Australian embassy told The Post on Sunday that Ryan led the Australian delegation that participated in the 27th APPF in Siem Reap and, as part of the visit, he met with the Cambodian government to reaffirm Australia’s commitment to making the Indo-Pacific region stronger, more secure and prosperous.

“The Senate President discussed Australia’s development assistance programme in Cambodia, which is improving the governance and resilience of Cambodian institutions, and the livelihoods of Cambodia’s poorest communities."

“Senator Ryan also reiterated Australia’s serious concerns with the 2018 Cambodian national election process, and pressed the Cambodian government to take more steps to allow free and open political debate,” she said.

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