Many Cambodian people might have never heard of the nation of Liechtenstein, so they would be doubly surprised to hear that the small, German-speaking European state has selected the Kingdom as one of its nine priority nations for the development of bilateral relations.

The new relationship was revealed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in a February 29 statement, released during the February 29 to March 2 visit of Dominique Hasler, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Education and Sports of Liechtenstein.

Her arrival marked the first ministerial visit from Liechtenstein to Cambodia. 

Analysts described the move as part of “consistent efforts” by the two nations to diversify their diplomacy.

According to the ministry’s statement, the two sides signed the “Framework Agreement on Development Cooperation” during “candid and fruitful” discussions between foreign minister Sok Chenda Sophea and Hasler.

The two first met on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York, in September 2023.

“They emphasised the positive momentum of the flourishing friendship between the two countries. The foreign minister expressed his deep appreciation to the government of Liechtenstein for selecting Cambodia as one of nine priority countries for bilateral cooperation,” said the statement.

It explained that the new framework agreement aims to strengthen the bonds of friendship and deepen cooperation, with a particular focus on human resource development.

“Both ministers shared the belief that the agreement will pave the way for future agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoU) on various sectors of common interest,” it added.

Hasler announced Liechtenstein’s intention to establish a representative office of the Liechtenstein Development Service (LED) in Cambodia, which was welcomed by Chenda Sophea. LED will facilitate the implementation of several existing projects in the Kingdom.

Both sides agreed to explore the possibility of establishing Bilateral Consultations between the two foreign ministries, while expressing their commitment to expanding cooperation in key areas, such as education and vocational training.

While in Cambodia, Hasler also met with Heng Sour, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training, and Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, on March 1, to discuss closer cooperation between their respective ministries.

“Cooperation needs dialogue; yesterday, I had great meetings with labour minister Heng Sour and education minister Hang to discuss the importance of vocational education and Liechtenstein’s support for Cambodia in that regard,” said Hasler, via social media.

She also visited some of Liechtenstein’s project partners, including Kampuchea Action to Promote Education (KAPE), which implements a project to improve the digital skills of young students, and the Institute of Technology of Cambodia.

Hasler said she was impressed by “Sisters of Code”, supported by LED, which is the first female coding club in the Kingdom.

“Great to see the leadership and vision of these young girls, who are positive role models for others,” she added.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, described the engagement between the two countries as “new”. While Liechtenstein is a small country, he believed that listing Cambodia as one of its nine priority bilateral relations subjects is consistent with what the Kingdom is also doing.

“Cambodia is diversifying its diplomatic ties and Liechtenstein is expanding theirs to outside of Europe. Their equilibrium is one of diversified diplomacy,” he said.

Phea explained that Cambodia is expanding ties with many countries, through a strategy of solidifying friendships and expanding relations, while maintaining its independence.

He also highlighted that no matter how small a country is, it has an equal voice under the UN system.

“In other words, we can say that the Kingdom is pursuing ‘colourful diplomacy’ in which support will be seen from countries in Asia and Europe. This also dispels accusations that Cambodia is reliant on China. Cambodia sticks to its Constitution, article 53 of which describes the importance of independence, neutrality and non-alliance,” he said.

“I think it’s all of these factors that are drawing both countries nearer to each other,” he added.