The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation denied a report published by Voice of America (VOA) that Prime Minister Hun Sen was scheduled to visit China next week to seek out tens of millions of dollars in loans.
It dismissed the contents of the report as false, saying it was intended to mislead the public for political purposes.
The reaction came after VOA – the largest US international broadcaster funded by the US Congress – published a February 4 article titled “Cambodia seeks more assistance from China as concern over debt trap grows”.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to visit Beijing next week looking to borrow more than $4 billion for a high-speed railway line that will connect Cambodia’s capital with the economic hub on the Thai border,” the article read.
“The deal would be the latest symbol of the ‘ironclad’ friendship between the two countries that has observers worried that Cambodia’s growing dependence on Chinese largesse could lead to a ‘debt trap’ with long-term economic and geopolitical consequences,” it added.
Foreign ministry spokesman An Sokkhoeurn said at a February 6 press conference that the VOA article was untrue and unprofessional and that it misled the public for political reasons.
“The reporters of VOA did not verify the source of the information that they received and this is one of the examples that show the low quality of the reporters at VOA, because this article was written with its facts wrong intentionally,” he said.
“The statement that the prime minister’s visit to China next week is to ask for loans to build this high-speed railway is false. The truth is that the project will not be supported by loans. The project will open the way for investment via BOT [build, operate and transfer],” he continued.
Sokkhoeurn said Hun Sen and many other ministers have clarified the details and intentions of the project on several occasions.
He said the government has no intention of borrowing money in large amounts for the project from overseas and is always serious about managing foreign debts, though it prioritised urgent and necessary infrastructure projects like transportation.
“Despite having been given several explanations previously, the reporters of VOA intentionally ignored these clarifications and continued to play what is called dirty politics to undermine Cambodia-China relations.
“Once again, Cambodia welcomes every investment in this project, but in the form of BOT,” he stated.
VOA did not respond to The Post’s emailed request for comment by press time.