Cambodian and Australian representatives reaffirmed their mutual support for forging ahead with development plans in public statements issued following a new round of talks between senior officials held via video conference on January 28.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation secretary of state Soeung Rathchavy co-chaired the meeting with Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Deputy Secretary Justin Hayhurst.
“Both sides expressed a common desire to strengthen cooperation and render mutual support in regional and international frameworks, including ASEAN, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the UN and Mekong sub-regional cooperation, in order to contribute to the maintenance of peace, security and sustainable development,” the press statement said.
The two sides expressed mutual appreciation for each other’s leadership in controlling and preventing further spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Australian government specifically appreciated consular assistance and support for Australian citizens stranded in the Kingdom.
Cambodia thanked Australia for its generous grant of $28 million to support the purchase and rollout of WHO-approved vaccines.
“On security and defence, both sides agreed to enhance cooperation in border management, the fight against transnational crimes including human and drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorism, and maritime security through training programmes for military and law enforcement officials,” the statement said.
It continued: “The Australian side welcomed remarks by the prime minister that Cambodia adheres to a policy of permanent neutrality and non-alignment and will not allow foreign military bases” in the nation.
Australia reaffirmed its commitment to assisting Cambodia in priority areas of education, infrastructure, trade, agriculture, health care and demining. The Kingdom thanked Australia for its continued assistance as well as a pledge to increase scholarships awarded to Cambodians next year.
“Participants exchanged views on human rights cooperation and democracy in Cambodia and agreed to work closely together in a constructive manner,” it said.
Australia expressed support for Cambodia’s hosting of the 13th ASEM Summit this year and its chairmanship of ASEAN next year. Cambodia welcomed the Australian government’s initiative to implement the Mekong-Australia Programme to promote sustainable development in the Mekong basin region.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the bilateral relationship of the two countries has notably improved. Australia has been careful about releasing any position statements regarding Cambodia, and interactions had been polite and constructive.
According to his observations, the Australian government expresses their concerns in a way which should not be seen as demanding or attempting to violate Cambodia’s sovereignty – and which has facilitated acceptance by the Cambodian government.
“Generally, Australia’s concerns about the development of democracy and human rights in Cambodia have been expressed cautiously, respectfully and diplomatically. Their concerns have not been presented in ways that can be interpreted as interference into another state’s internal affairs,” Phea said.