The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Monday outlined the four core foreign policy values that Cambodia is focusing on in the current global context.
Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn was talking to some 1,200 university students at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh a few days after the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) Day 2019.
“Our first core value is to protect the national interest, especially national defence and sovereignty,” he said, stressing that this was the top priority when there was any attempt at interference by superpowers in Cambodia’s internal affairs.
He thanked donor countries and the international community who have supported the Kingdom, including through preferential trade agreements like the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) deal.
“However, based on our past lessons of the tragedy which resulted from the loss of independence and sovereignty, Cambodia will absolutely not allow history to repeat itself. We will not exchange our sovereignty for donations,” Sokhonn said.
He said the second core value was the assurance that Cambodian foreign policy must be strong and flexible in order to respond to influence sought as a consequence of geopolitical competition between the superpowers.
Sokhonn said regional and global contexts change rapidly, becoming complex, unpredictable and potentially dangerous.
This requires Cambodia to be steered carefully, he said, and in this context, the Kingdom will remain neutral and not join any alliance.
“[We] are implementing the government motto – making internal reforms and increasing external friendship with the aim of strengthening independence and national sovereignty."
“We continue to extend our external relations and diplomatic activities to strengthen and increase friendship and cooperation with countries around the world in order to further our interests and national prestige,” he said.
The third core value, Sokhonn said, was to increase trade and economic and cultural diplomacy and to absorb more sources of economic growth through diversification.
He said Cambodia needs to change from traditional diplomacy to a policy that contributes to economic growth, is culturally beneficial and boosts tourism.
“The fourth core value of our foreign policy is to actively contribute to peacekeeping missions and help solve the challenges the world is facing,” he said, adding that he was proud that Cambodia had sent nearly 6,000 UN peacekeepers abroad since 2006.
US-based political analyst Sok Sakoun said Sokhonn’s stated values sounded like normal foreign policy. Sakoun said what Cambodia should focus on is economic stability.
“Facing the [potential] withdrawal of the EBA agreement, the Prime Minister has already secured economic packages from China. That will cover a portion of any losses."
“Cambodia must increase trade with Asean partners. And Japan’s grants and donations should also be utilised. Cambodia needed to create new markets and incentives for an influx of investment,” he said.
Sokhonn said Cambodia will host the 13th Asem Summit next year and it will be a historic occasion for Cambodia to host such a huge event.
Agreeing to host the summit was ambitious, he said, because it requires a lot of resources, but it will raise Cambodia’s profile on the world stage.
Asem is an intergovernmental process established in 1996 to foster dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe. It comprises 53 partners – 30 European and 21 Asian countries, the EU and the Asean Secretariat.