Kingdom, Cuba ink MoUs on health, education, int’l affairs

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia’s foreign ministry permanent secretary of state Ouch Borith (left) shakes hands with Gerardo Penalver Portal, first deputy minister of Cuba’s foreign ministry, at the MoU signing ceremony on September 25. SPM

Cambodia and Cuba have signed three memoranda of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the fields of health, education and foreign policy coordination, while Prime Minister Hun Sen also announced the provision of 6,000 tonnes of milled rice to the island nation during his state visit.

Hun Sen and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel witnessed the MoU signing ceremony on the second day of his September 23-25 visit.

The documents included an MoU co-signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng and his Cuban counterpart Jose Angel Portal Miranda.

The second MoU was related to cooperative plans between the two countries’ foreign ministries, co-signed by Ouch Borith – permanent secretary of state at Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation – and Cuba’s First Deputy Minister of External Affairs Gerardo Penalver Portal.

The third was between the Cuban Higher Education Institute and Cambodia’s National Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations at the foreign ministry, co-signed by Borith and Rohellio Rasy Dyas, dean of the Senior Foreign Relations Institute at Cuba’s external affairs ministry.

Hun Sen announced the provision of 6,000 tonnes of milled rice to the government and people of Cuba during his meeting with Diaz-Canel before the MoU signing ceremony.

“Of the 6,000 tonnes of rice, 3,000 tonnes come as assistance from the Cambodian government and people, while the rest is from the Kingdom’s private sector. The rice will be shipped from Cambodia in October and arrive in Cuba in December,” he said.

In a September 24 social media post, Hun Sen said the two leaders had discussed arranging exchange visits for agricultural technicians and conducting further research into agriculture in Cambodia, especially rice crops.

He added that Cambodia would cover the costs of the research, intended to assist with ensuring food security for the two countries.

While visiting the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Hun Sen assigned Bun Heng to communicate with the centre and cooperate on importing or producing cancer and diabetes vaccines for Cambodia, which he said has a high rate of people developing both non-communicable diseases now.

The institute has accepted Hun Sen’s requests and would continue cooperating with the health ministry.

While meeting with former Cuban president Raul Castro – brother of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro – Hun Sen said Cambodia would never forget that Cuba assisted the country in times of hardship after it was liberated from the Khmer Rouge regime.

“At that time Cuba helped Cambodia in the fight against imperialism and its recovery from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Cuba helped Cambodia a lot in 1979 and I still remember that at that time, Cambodia had Cuban sugar, a Cuban orphanage, and a Cuban ferry,” the post detailed.

Hun Sen recalled that Cuban aid was important to the survival of many Cambodians in the wake of the disastrous Khmer Rouge regime in the aftermath of its fall. Cuba helped train human resources, which were important for the development of Cambodia at that time.

Relations between Cambodia and Cuba remain strong, Hun Sen noted, despite challenges such as the distance between the two countries and the Kingdom’s shift to a market-based economy.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Hun Sen’s visit to Cuba had strengthened and perhaps renewed the traditional relationship between the two countries, which dates from the Cold War era.