The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said on Thursday that 2018 was a year in which Cambodia had “vigorously struggled” to respond to threats to its independence through attempted interference in its internal affairs and the continuation of a “colour” revolution to topple the government.
Cambodia had noted many attempts of revolution demanding change under the pretext of “democracy and human rights” through the interference into its affairs by foreign countries.
Their goal was to achieve an ambitious geopolitical expansion “without thinking about the effects and risks to Cambodian people”, the ministry’s more than 20-page report said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs closed its two-day annual review and planning meeting on Thursday in the presence of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In its report, the ministry said global issues had changed, becoming complex and unpredictable. This was caused by political, diplomatic, economic and military competition for “superiority” between superpowers, the report said.
“Interference in internal affairs by some superpowers and their allies in the name of democracy and human rights pushed some countries into war and their people to suffer, especially in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq, while recently such interference threatened the peace and security of Venezuela,” it read.
The ministry said applying the whole “advanced democracy” concept in another sovereign state without considering the context of that country and its real situation “would not only be unsuccessful but also brought risks to political stability, social order and peace, as Cambodia had been through”.
“Cambodia is in a strategic location and the superpowers cannot escape from affecting it in their geopolitical conflicts."
“Some superpowers and their allies continued to play tricks of all kinds to interfere in Cambodian internal affairs, using double-standard claims of democracy and the respect of human rights, in an attempt to force Cambodia to follow their political steps,” its report said.
The ministry said it succeeded in five major tasks last year, including protecting national interests, especially regarding independence and sovereignty; pursuing a flexible international foreign policy according to geopolitical pressures; practising economic diplomacy contributing to world peace and security; and continuing institutional reforms.
It said Cambodia was currently facing several challenges, including foreign interference in its affairs, a limited number of missions abroad, especially in Latin America and Africa, and China-US trade tensions. It said Cambodia currently has ties with 172 countries and had 60 embassies and consulate offices around the world.
The report said the Kingdom had received 711 Cambodian deportees from the US since 2002, including 18 women, while 139 deportees returned in 2018 alone.
It also intervened in the return of 8,489 Cambodian workers who were abused abroad.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said superpowers were competing with each other and this impacted smaller countries.
Speaking of Cambodia, he raised the example of US attempts to influence the Kingdom by calling for the release of arrested politicians and demanding certain conditions be met.
Another example was interference by the EU through the conditions placed on Cambodia via its preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement, he said.
“In the procedure leading to the suspension of EBA for Cambodia, there are many conditions set with the characteristics of interfering into the sovereignty of an independent state, in the form of giving orders like they were colonisers demanding its colony follow their agenda,” he said.
In 2019, Cambodia would face further challenges resulting from US-China trade tensions and the competition between the Chinese “Belt and Road” initiative and US policy for the Indo-Pacific region, he said.
“All of these are regional problems which affect smaller countries in the middle of this competition."
“There are other regional problems which require Cambodia to be flexible in international relations so that we can stand at a place where our interests will not be severely affected,” he said.
‘Cambodia is closer to China’
Analyst Meas Nee said the signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements made the situation different for Cambodia.
“We already know that Cambodia is under conditions set in the Paris Peace Agreements. So the way Cambodia walks is different from that of Singapore, Vietnam or Laos. Cambodia is not like these countries because we signed an agreement for peace,” he said.
With the Paris agreement, he said, signatory countries had the right to talk with Cambodia about human rights, with this not being the same as internal interference.
He said Cambodia had moved closer to China after losing trust in the West. It now looked to China as a supporter, receiving financial aid for development. But he opined that China had a different view of Cambodia.
“China seems to look at Cambodia with geopolitics in mind. Indeed, we recently heard claims as to the presence of a foreign military base in Cambodia,” he said.