Prime Minister Hun Manet has clarified that while the government will provide assistance in some matters, such as the problem of prices in the agricultural sector, it will not intervene in the free market or violate competition law, both of which are guaranteed in the Constitution.

The remarks came as he presided over the November 20 launch ceremony of the government’s 5th and 6th Priority Policy Programmes for the agricultural sector. 

“The government may intervene in necessary and restrictive tasks in some sectors, especially through technical assistance and the development of infrastructure. We will continue to monitor them and need to have a participatory formula for both the state and private sectors,” he said.

He added that while the government may help provide loans, it would not violate free market principles. Cambodia is also a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and some market interventions could violate competition law or lose access to certain markets.

“What is most important is that we strengthen ourselves and become self-reliant, especially in the private sector. We can intervene with regards to prices when necessary, but the Constitution stipulates the guarantee of a free market economy and the state has the goal of reducing its interference,” he said.

“Obviously, the state intervenes when a crisis comes, but only at particular times, in order to strengthen the agricultural sector,” he added.

The prime minister instructed the agriculture ministry and other relevant institutions to assure farmers and the private sector that it would stamp out any activities that hindered fair competition. 

Pa Chanroeun, president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy (CID), described the prime minister’s remarks as correct. As a democratic country which has adopted a free market economy, in general the government does not interfere in business affairs or transactions. However, the state can intervene when necessary, to maintain balance and protect the national interests.

“The state intervenes when necessary. Obviously, when the rice harvest season comes, farmers hardly find markets because brokers manipulate market prices, and state intervention is inevitable. The state needs to coordinate and enact policies which ensure prices are sustainable for farmers,” he said.

He suggested that the government increase its attention to monitoring the economy, in order to spot vulnerabilities or loopholes in any sector. In this way, the state could take action if it became necessary.