Federal Republic participated with paramedics in the UNTAC mission (1991-1993): For the first time since the end of World War II, German soldiers were on a military operation abroad. On October 3, 1993, full diplomatic relations were re-established.
Until the 1990s, both states had a rather aloof relationship – a fact that finally emerged as a huge advantage. Indifference to numerous other foreign forces which tried to safeguard their political interests in Indochina over decades, relations were not contaminated by an involvement of Germany in the Cambodian conflict.
As of today, bilateral relations are trustful and intact, and exercised on the political, economic, and cultural levels. Since 1993, Germany has donated more than €400 million for Cambodia’s development within the “Rectangular Strategy” framework. Together with numerous organisations, state agencies offer assistance in many sectors and programs. Substantiated through similarities in history, Germany also provides assistance for Cambodia’s attempts to come to terms with the Khmer Rouge legacy.
On the cultural level, Germany supports the conservation of heritage sites within the Angkor archaeological park and excavations in Prey Veng province. In the capital, both Meta House and the Art Plus Foundation have become well-respected ambassadors for cultural exchange.
By buying mainly textiles and shoes worth more than €1 billion last year, the Federal Republic is the fifth largest importer of Cambodian products. The German Business Group (ADW), an association of German companies and brands operating in Cambodia, is dedicated to further extending business relations between both countries.
Germany is willing to discharge its responsibility for Cambodia in the future, in bilateral relations as well as through the European Union. Among others, green energy and a skilled workforce for Cambodia’s industrialisation appear to still be neglected sectors in which Germany can provide valuable assistance.
Of course, a successful partnership depends on responsible behaviour from both sides. Therefore, further attacks on liberal principles and political pluralism have the potential to put a strain on the German-Cambodian relationship.
Dr Markus Karbaum is a German citizen and political scientist specialised on Cambodia’s economy and politics with a regular output of research articles and analysis since 2003.