While Japan’s reconstruction efforts in Cambodia don’t appear to be slowing down even after nearly 30 years, they could take a different direction in the coming years.
Japan, which has been pumping in millions of dollars in assisting Cambodia since the end of the civil war period, largely to rebuild its rudimentary infrastructure, could shift its focus slightly.
“Soft components” or technical assistance will become the major thrust of Japan’s Overseas Development Aid – a major shift from its hard infrastructure policy that contributed to the Kingdom’s socioeconomic development since 1992.
“Our support has been changing from infrastructure to soft components. Now we have a new strategy, not only focusing on infrastructure but also on governance and soft components,” Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) representative in Cambodia Shinohara Yuji told The Post.
The activities of Jica – the executing agency of Japan’s development aid in foreign countries – have grown alongside Cambodia’s steady economic growth.
The agency’s support is seen, for instance, in healthcare and road and bridge construction, as well as agriculture and marine aquaculture.
“Our projects have solved many problems in Cambodia. For example, in removing landmines and unexploded ordnance, to the construction of symbolic bridges like the across to Chroy Changwar, the ‘Phnom Penh Miracle’ water supply project, to assisting the Ministry of Justice in designing the Civil Code, as well as supporting high quality agriculture,” Yuji said.
Another notable soft component project is the “community police”. Jica is working with the Ministry of Interior to promote “community police” in rural areas, a concept adopted from the Japanese “Koban” system.
“This project started in 2017 in Phnom Penh. It is to train civil officers. Japanese and Cambodian trainers will provide training for the police and train the trainers,” Yuji said.
It has a been “good journey” for almost three decades to assist in shaping Cambodia’s infrastructure demands to support the growing economy, he added.
“We have met around 70 per cent of our objectives and made good progress from water, [sea] port to agriculture. These projects have successfully contributed to Cambodia’s growth.
“These projects were implemented by both Cambodian and Japanese people. Jica considers capacity development as most important concept. We are therefore proud that capacity development is the most important factor to contribute to sustainable and rapid growth of Cambodia after the civil war,” Yuji said.