Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US criticism, Chinese cash arrive just a few hours apart

US criticism, Chinese cash arrive just a few hours apart

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) and Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen attend the opening session of the Asia-Europe Meeting Summit in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator on July 15. AFP
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (left) and Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen attend the opening session of the Asia-Europe Meeting Summit in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator on July 15. AFP

US criticism, Chinese cash arrive just a few hours apart

A US congressional committee’s resolution demanding an end to the government’s “harassment and intimidation” of the opposition issued early Friday morning barely had time to register before being overshadowed by the announcement of yet another large injection of Chinese cash.

Days after Cambodia reiterated its disregard for a South China Sea arbitration ruling, Prime Minister Hun Sen unveiled a three-year $530 million aid package from China, with a government spokesman yesterday saying it was not an “award” for staying away from the issue.

Taking to his Facebook page, Hun Sen said the offer was made at the conclusion of a bilateral meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting in Mongolia last week.

“At the request of Samdech, China has announced it will grant Cambodia some 3.6 billion yuan, equal to almost $600 million, to develop the country for three years including aid for election assistance, health, education sectors, and clean water to benefit the people of Cambodia,” the post reads.

Last week’s arbitration decision at The Hague eviscerated China’s claim to large swaths of the South China Sea, ruling in favour of the Philippines on nearly every point. In the lead-up to the ruling, the premier had declared it a “political conspiracy” against China, saying it was a bilateral issue between China and the Philippines, a stance widely interpreted to be influenced by Chinese pressure.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday said that the timing of the aid had nothing to do with the arbitration ruling and that the new cash influx was simply part of an ongoing process with their Chinese counterparts.

But Chinese influence on the issue, real or imagined, received its first test over the weekend, according to Japanese media.

Wire service Jiji News reported on Saturday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had personally lobbied Hun Sen over the issue, stressing the need to accept The Hague’s ruling, saying it was binding and based on the rule of law. Foreign Ministry officials could not be reached yesterday to verify the meeting.

The US House of Representatives committee resolution, meanwhile, called for a “cessation of ongoing human rights violations” in Cambodia and urged Hun Sen to end the “harassment and intimidation” of the opposition, as well as drop all “politically motivated” charges against them.

That resolution follows a US Senate committee’s move earlier this month to insert language into an upcoming aid bill that would make funds contingent on improved treatment of Cambodian civil society and the opposition. Siphan at the time called it an attempt to “bribe the rule of law”.

MOST VIEWED

  • With herd immunity likely in 2022, is Cambodia ready to reopen for tourism?

    The government aims to inoculate 80 per cent of the target population by June next year, giving it a head start among regional peers to reboot the sector but first, it has to do a few things to up its game A sign on a glass

  • Quarantine still a must for all arrivals, in next Covid chapter

    Since early May, an average of five to 10 Cambodian people have died from Covid-19 a day with many others testing positive amid the ongoing community outbreak. At the same time, however, hundreds of patients also recovered a day. The first Covid-19 case in Cambodia was

  • US wants 'full access' to Ream Naval Base

    On June 11, the US embassy's Defense Attaché Colonel Marcus M Ferrara visited Ream Nava Base in coordination with Cambodian officials following the recent approval of Prime minister Hun Sen to allay the concerns on Chinese military presence at the base as raised by US Deputy

  • Jab drive heading to 5 provinces

    The government is set to vaccinate more than 1.2 million people in five provinces after finishing with Phnom Penh and neighbouring Kandal in an ongoing campaign administered by the ministries of Health and National Defence. The five provinces are Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampong Cham

  • New immigration bill targets illegal foreigners in Kingdom

    General Department of Immigration (GDI) officials are discussing revisions to the new draft law on immigration to prevent foreigners from entering Cambodia illegally and to supervise those living in the Kingdom more effectively. The revisions draw wide support among civil society organisations. GDI director-general Kirth

  • First commercial gold mine online

    Australian miner Renaissance Minerals (Cambodia) Ltd on June 21 began the commercial operation of its $120 million Okvau Gold Project in the northeastern province of Mondulkiri, becoming the Kingdom’s first gold producer. Located in the Okvau area in southwestern Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district, the