The National Assembly’s Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and the Media met with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn on Wednesday for an update on Cambodian foreign policy.
Chheang Vun, the chairman of the fifth commission of the National Assembly, told The Post after the meeting that the talks touched on a wide range of topics.
“He made a really good presentation this morning on developments in global affairs. He spoke about important Cambodian foreign policy which we, at the National Assembly, have to work in line with,” Vun said.
He said the meeting touched on the South China Sea and the Cambodian position, US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy and current tensions between Iran and the US.
“With all of these, our Minister of Foreign Affairs and leading diplomat Sokhonn outlined the issues and set the path for Cambodia to follow. I told him he had made a lot of reforms within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to counter external challenges,” Vun said.
He said the possible withdrawal of access to the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement was also discussed, and Sokhonn said Cambodia had already made its position clear.
“We really want to retain access to EBA, but we cannot compromise the nation’s sovereignty and independence for EBA. This is the red line that we cannot cross.
“If we were to cross this line, it would go against our rule of law. So how can we keep EBA?” he said, adding that while Cambodia had done a lot in regard to labour rights, challenges still remained.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen has already made it clear that we are trying our best to retain EBA access, but we have already told the EU what we cannot do as this would cause the death of rule of law and democracy in Cambodia,” Vun said.
He said the European Parliament had just held elections and a new EU Commissioner had yet to be appointed.
In the meantime, he said, Cambodia was preparing for discussions on EBA with the incoming commissioner.
Vun said despite critics claiming that Cambodia was leaning towards China and walking away from the US, the Kingdom’s foreign policy remained neutral.
However, to strengthen relations with the US, American investment and assistance should be enhanced, he said.
The nomination of W Patrick Murphy as US ambassador to Cambodia was also raised at the meeting.
Vun said he was optimistic about Murphy’s posting in Cambodia as he had a broad understanding of issues in Asia and the Pacific.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the Kingdom had abandoned its foreign policy of perpetual neutrality that was agreed upon and guaranteed by Cambodia and parties to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, and which was enshrined in the country’s constitution as well.
“Cambodia has become increasingly anti-American. It is now overwhelmingly dependent on China to shore up the current leadership’s hold on power, and for its protection and development,” he claimed.