Japan has pledged to provide approximately $55 million in concessional loans and grants to the Kingdom for the National Road 5 Improvement Project and to offer scholarships for 26 Cambodian government officials to study in the economic powerhouse.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn and Japanese ambassador Atsushi Ueno signed an exchange agreement and relevant documents regarding the two projects at the ministry on May 24.

The ministry announced that the budget for the National Road 5 Improvement Project – Prek Kdam to Thlea Ma’am Section – is some $52.6 million.

“The project is one of three improvement projects being carried out on the national road. Upon completion, National Road 5 will play an even more important logistical role in Cambodia and strengthen connectivity throughout the region,” said the ministry.

Uneno said at the signing ceremony that the project includes the upgrading of 370km of road between Prek Kdam in Kandal province and Poipet town in Banteay Meanchey.

The project has been divided into three sections – south, centre and north – with construction on the northern part between Battambang town and Banteay Meanchey provincial capital Sisophon having already been completed under a previously agreed Japanese loan.

“The two governments agree that this loan will make it possible to complete the rest of the work.

“I expect that this project will significantly improve the transportation capacity of National Road 5, which plays a key logistical role in Cambodia and, by linking Vietnam and Thailand, improve connectivity throughout the region,” Ueno said.

The scholarship project for human resource development by Japanese Grant Aid (JDS) is worth more than $2 million, with the Japanese grant providing full scholarships for 26 government officials from various institutions to pursue higher degrees at prestigious universities in Japan.

Twenty-four scholarships for master’s degrees are available, with two for doctorates.

“Since reopening for Cambodia in 2000, the project has provided scholarships to a total of 548 government officials.

“This has enabled them to use their knowledge and skills to contribute to the Kingdom’s long-term development and to a closer relationship between the peoples of Cambodia and Japan,” said the ministry.

Ueno said that earlier this month, the Japanese government ended border control measures related to Covid-19, and he hoped that this would enable many future JDS fellows to travel and study more freely in Japan.

“I hope that the alumni of this project will continue to play an important role in the further development of Cambodia and the strengthening of the friendship between our two nations,” he said.

Sokhonn said at the signing ceremony that the relationship between Cambodia and Japan had been upgraded to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”, with the two nations this year celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

He thanked the government and the people of Japan for their ongoing assistance to Cambodia, and for contributing to the Kingdom’s socioeconomic development.

These include the development of health, education and water supply infrastructure, as well as in security and defence, and with peacekeeping operations, people-to-people connections and demining efforts.

Sokhonn also reiterated his personal commitment, as well as that of Japanese foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, to further strengthening bilateral relations.