Cambodia and Russia mark 65 years of diplomatic ties

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Russia summit in Sochi in May 2016. AFP

Cambodia and Russia celebrated the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations on May 13 with leaders of the two countries highlighting their mutual trust and support, shared values and the benefits of mutual ties and vowing to elevate relations and cooperation to new heights.

The two nations originally established diplomatic contact on May 13, 1956.

To mark the anniversary, King Norodom Sihamoni exchanged letters with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying Cambodia and Russia had enjoyed a long-lasting and most cordial friendship and had enjoyed excellent cooperation in a wide range of fields.

“It is my earnest wish that the excellent and rich cooperation which so happily exists between our two countries will be further developed for the mutual benefits of our two peoples and in the interests of peace and progress in the world,” the King wrote.

In his letter to King Norodom Sihamoni, Russian President Putin said that in the last decade Russia and Cambodia have accumulated a significant amount of experience engaging in constructive cooperation in various fields.

“I am convinced that guided by these fine traditions we will ensure further development of the whole complex of our bilateral relationship. Undoubtedly, this approach is in the best interests of the people of Russia and Cambodia and is in line with the strengthening of security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” Putin wrote.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, in a letter addressed to his Russian counterpart Mikhail Mishustin, said the Cambodian government and people could never forget the invaluable help and assistance rendered by the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics after the liberation of Cambodia from the Pol Pot genocidal regime.

“I am personally convinced that together with Your Excellency we shall succeed in building new avenues to elevate our partnership for peace and prosperity to new heights for the mutual benefit of our two countries and the peoples,” Hun Sen wrote.

Similarly, Mishustin said in his letter to Hun Sen that vigorous work by the two governments would contribute to further strengthening of trade, economic, scientific, technological, cultural and humanitarian cooperation through the implementation of promising joint projects in various fields.

“This approach fully serves the interests of the two nations,” Mishustin wrote.

Senate president Say Chhum and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn also exchanged letters with their counterparts Valentina Matviyenko, Speaker of the Russian Senate, and Sergey Larov, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister, vowing to elevate the two countries’ relations to new heights.

Cambodian foreign ministry secretary of state Chem Widhya said currently the two governments have been organising regular meetings, including inter-governmental commissions on trade, economics, science and technical cooperation. This commission is helping to chart a new course for concrete actions to further unlock other potentially significant areas of mutual interest.

In the last six decades, he said, over 8,000 Cambodian students had completed their studies in the former Soviet Union and today’s Russian Federation. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, around 650,000 Russian tourists visited Cambodia each year.

He said the foreign ministry and the Russian embassy had planned many events, but those events have been interrupted by the pandemic. The ministry decided to instead organise an online photo exhibition showcasing important events in the two country’s diplomatic relations.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said Cambodia and Russia had been allies since the commencement of diplomatic relations, with more room for improvement. He cited bilateral trade as a sector that could be enhanced.

“The in-bound trade from Russia is just around $20 million, and bilateral trade volume is in the region of around $200 million. Also, the people-to-people relationship should be expanded if possible,” he said.

Russia is, however, an important country for Cambodia’s human resource development, he said. Several Cambodian graduates from Russian schools are currently holding high positions within the government, including some senior ministers and ministers, he added.