Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurated a stretch of National Road 5 connecting Battambang province to neighbouring Banteay Meanchey’s Sisophon town, calling the road a sampling of the fruits borne of special Cambodia-Japan bonds of friendship that would contribute significantly to the national economy.
Speaking at the opening ceremony in Battambang on January 10, the premier said he deeply appreciated the people and government of Japan for helping the Cambodian people in all fields and under all circumstances with unconditional assistance, substantial grants and concessional loans to help build and develop physical infrastructure throughout the country.
“I consider the 84.74km stretch of National Road 5 from the north of Battambang to Sisophon town to be the fruits of Cambodia-Japan cooperative efforts to develop the country’s socio-economy,” he said.
Hun Sen said National Road 5 – also called Asian Highway 1 (AH1)– was a primary regional route passing through Phnom Penh and linking Thailand’s Bangkok to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.
“Separately, National Road 1 was built by Japan and the Tsubasa Bridge – which is the largest bridge connecting Kandal and Prey Veng provinces around Neak Loeung – was also built by Japan. Therefore, it can be said that the infrastructure in Cambodia’s south has largely been supported by grants and financing from Japan,” he said.
At the event, Hun Sen also thanked the government and people of Japan for providing grants and financing for socio-economic development in Cambodia. He said he considered these contributions proof of their commitment to peace and development in Cambodia.
According to Hun Sen, Japan is one of the largest providers of aid to Cambodia, having donated more than $1.4 billion to date.
“The 30th anniversary of the peacekeeping operations by Japan will be celebrated in 2022, and I promise that when the Japanese defence forces ship arrives and docks in Cambodia, I will pay a visit to the Japanese sailors aboard if the Japanese side agrees,” he said.
He said that when Japan’s ship arrives, it may not be able to dock at Ream Port in Preah Sihanouk province, but Cambodia will use smaller ships to ferry the Japanese troops to the mainland to visit the port and other locations in the province.
Japanese ambassador Masahiro Mikami said the Cambodian economy is currently expanding at a healthy pace and that the ability of the people to travel easily is an important factor for sustaining economic growth, including National Road 5, which is part of the southern economic corridor connecting Thailand and Vietnam.
“In the past year, the spread of Covid-19 has affected the Cambodian economy. I hope that the opening of this stretch of National Road 5 will be a factor in driving the recovery of economic activities in Cambodia and letting the Japan-Cambodia friendship grow even more,” he said.
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said Cambodia-Japan relations are mutually respectful with deep respect for sovereignty, independence and non-interference by both sides.
Japan, he noted, has also contributed deeply to the process of peace building and development in Cambodia and can be considered one of the leading countries in the world for development efforts in Cambodia in terms of building physical infrastructure, human resources and cultural exchanges.
“We know that Japan has contributed to the peacekeeping process and that this will be the first time that Japan sends a defence force naval ship abroad ... since World War II.
“The celebration of this anniversary is to remember the value of Japan’s efforts in the peace-building process in Cambodia and our allowing their sailors to visit Ream, I think, shows the value of friendship and transparency and is another reason to dismiss US fantasies about a Chinese military base in Ream, raised by them over and over again,” he said.