Prime Minister Hun Manet is paying an official visit in Laos to deepen bilateral relations and cooperation between the neighbouring countries, in accordance with their comprehensive strategic partnership. 

Accompanied by foreign minister Sok Chenda Sophea and other senior officials, as well as Kith Meng, president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), Manet’s March 25-26 trip is in response to an invitation by Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone. 

Following a March 25 meeting with Sonexay, the two leaders announced that Cambodia and Laos are committed to completing their unfinished border demarcation, and will push forward bilateral relations in many sectors, with several documents signed.

“We exchanged our experiences of an instrument on border demarcation, which was signed in February 2023. In the near future, Cambodia strongly believes that both sides will completely enforce the treaty in an effective manner,” said Manet.

He explained that the demarcations will be based on mutual agreement, according to international law and best practices.

Manet also elaborated on other aspects of the discussions, such as Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam (CLV) Development Triangle Area, for which Cambodia will host a summit, a CLV national defence ministers’ meeting and joint rescue drills by year’s end.

“I emphasised that Cambodia totally supports Laos as the rotational chair of ASEAN 2024, and the role of the ASEAN chair’s Special Envoy for Myanmar. In this regard, we pledge to provide $1 million to our Laos friends to support the successful hosting of the ASEAN summit and related meeting,” he said.

He also urged Laos to join the Ottawa Convention, especially as Cambodia is the current chair of the mine ban treaty and will host a summit in Siem Reap this November. He invited Laos to attend this Siem Reap-Angkor Summit on a Mine Free World.

“Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone and I are optimistic about the future of our friendship. I hope that the prime minister will have time to pay an official visit to Cambodia to further discuss work to strengthen our bilateral relations,” Manet said.

Sonexay also offered pledges on border demarcation and other bilateral ties, including trade and investment. He requested Manet’s support for Lao investment in Cambodia and encouraged the Kingdom’s businesspeople to invest in the neighbouring country.

Meas Sophorn, a spokesperson for the prime minister, told reporters that the visit aims to deepen the bilateral relations, as well as strengthening the foundations needed to create progress and prosperity in the interests of the two peoples. 

He added that in addition, Manet will pay a courtesy call on Lao President Thongloun Sisoulith. He will also meet with Khambai Damlat, head of the Cambodia-Laos Association, and with members of the Cambodia business club and Cambodian students who are currently studying there.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, described the trip as important, noting that the two ASEAN neighbours aim to strengthen relations and collaboration, especially in the areas of the economy and trade. 

“The leaders of Cambodia and Laos are likely to discuss politics, trade and investment and the joint fight against cross-border crimes, including human and drug trafficking, as well as forest crimes. As the two countries have not yet completed planting border posts, this discussion may be a priority for them,” he said.

He added that the two leaders may discuss railway connectivity between the two countries, as it is necessary to expand a regional link, as well as connections between ASEAN and China, in order to strengthen the tourist sector and the exchange of trade through high-speed rail.

Phea expressed optimism about Cambodia-Laos ties, noting that they currently enjoy “excellent” relations and that he expects them to continue into the future. From his observation, the current situation and relationship are progressing positively, with mutual trust between the two governments and peoples.

Since taking office, Manet has paid formal visits to four ASEAN countries. He visited Vietnam in December last year, and Thailand and Malaysia in February. Laos is the fourth member of the bloc he has travelled to as prime minister.