Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed that Cambodia, after the civil war, embarked on two key missions of transforming warzones into thriving spaces equipped with markets, and fostering a peaceful, friendly and cooperative border with neighbouring nations.
He made the remarks while meeting with factory workers at Manhattan Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town on June 25.
The premier emphasised that the MSEZ represents the materialisation of his vision, highlighting the flourishing factories and industrial areas in Svay Rieng province, which shares its border with Vietnam.
He then queried the benefits of a war with a neighbouring country. “Only fatal shootings and not cooperation for development,” he said, drawing attention to the now flourishing trade connection with Vietnam.
He continued, explaining that peace policies between Cambodia and Vietnam facilitated robust trade relations, with trade volumes exceeding $10 billion. Interestingly, Cambodia had, in some years, exported more goods to Vietnam than it had imported. This trade reciprocity had boosted both economies.
“We converted the former battlefields into developmental areas with markets and transformed border areas into a zone of peace, friendship, cooperation and development, while ensuring the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance to guarantee safety for the people,” he said.
Hun Sen clarified that peace policies were equally applicable to Thailand, leading to the establishment of SEZs in Banteay Meanchey and Koh Kong provinces, which border Thailand.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, echoed Hun Sen’s views, underlining the significance of these regions for regional peace, security, stability and for nurturing cooperation in other sectors.
“For peaceful co-existence, it is essential to adhere to international law, the UN Charter, mutual respect, respect for independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs of other countries. Non-aggression is crucial,” said Phea.
However, he insisted on clear demarcation lines between internationally recognised neighbours and managing the flow of illegal migrants.
“It is necessary to develop the mindset to recognise historical truth, refrain from ultra-nationalism that stirs hostility in political, border and cultural aspects, and maintain good neighbourly relations,” he added.
According to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE), trade between Cambodia and Vietnam from January to May 2023 exceeded $2,870 million, a nearly three per cent increase. Cambodian exports to Vietnam rose by over 22 per cent to $1.32 billion, while imports fell by nearly 10 per cent to just over $1.54 billion compared to the same period in 2022.