High time to further strengthen Cambodia-Vietnam friendship

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A combination photo showing newly elected Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Prime Minister Hun Sen. AFP

On April 5, Vietnam’s legislature voted to endorse Pham Minh Chinh as the country’s next prime minister. And just minutes after Chinh was officially sworn in, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sent him a warm and cordial congratulation letter.

“I am firmly confident that with our joint efforts and determination in working closely within both bilateral and multilateral frameworks, Cambodia and Vietnam will be able to overcome the current unprecedented challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic for the best interests of our two countries, as well as for peace, stability, sustainable development and prosperity in the region and beyond,” the letter reads.

And the direct phone call on April 6 between the two prime ministers is a testimony of traditional, harmonious relationship based on mutual trust in the new chapter of close partnership between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Chinh, 62, was the head of the Communist Party’s Central Committee for Personnel and Organisation – one of the party’s most important agencies. He has had an impressive long career in the party and the government, holding various posts in the Ministry of Public Security with a top General rank before being selected as the party’s Secretary of Quang Ninh – a strategically located province bordering China.

Chinh is also highly appraised as a bold leader with vision and far-reaching strategies. His strong leadership during the term there has brought about fast and profound economic development in the province through vigorous administrative reforms and effective breakthrough policies, including unprecedented investment and trade incentives and quality human resource development measures.

With the new leadership of Vietnam in place, the next five years promise to offer new opportunities to further strengthen the harmonious relationship between our two nations.

Cambodia and Vietnam share vast land and sea borders, and have a traditional relationship of solidarity and friendship, as loyal brothers in arms in our long struggle for national liberalisation and salvation, for freedom and independence, and then as reliable partners in development, always standing by and helping each other.

In fact, Cambodia is among the most important partners for Vietnam’s foreign policy, development and national security as a whole, taking into consideration the Kingdom’s strategic geographical location, for both political security and economic interests.

Thus, Cambodia plays an important role as one of the gateway to the west to help Vietnam connect with the continent by the Trans-Asia route, while Vietnam represents a bridge to help Cambodia get connected to the east, expanding international economic and trade relations through maritime routes.

Relations between Vietnam and Cambodia have been constantly promoted and strengthened by the leaders and peoples of both countries under the motto of “good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, and comprehensive, sustainable, long-term cooperation” that was agreed upon in 2005, thus bringing important practical benefits to the two peoples. The two countries maintain regular high-level visits and exchanges at all levels, strengthening mutual trust and promoting cooperation mechanisms.

Bilateral cooperation on defence and security is implemented according to the agreements signed by the two parties as an important pillar, contributing greatly to the enhancement of mutual trust and creating a favourable environment for the development of both countries.

One of the most important achievements in the field is the historical signing of the two legal documents recognising the demarcation of 84 per cent of land border between the two countries. Both governments are now striving to complete the demarcation of the land border in the shortest time possible to develop a border of peace, stability, cooperation and sustainable development.

Economic, trade and investment cooperation remains a top priority for both countries and has achieved great results as well.

Vietnam is currently the third-largest trade partner and the fifth-largest investor in Cambodia. Bilateral trade reached the historic high benchmark of $5.2 billion in 2019, one year earlier than the target set by the two countries’ leaders.

In 2020, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the relationship between the two countries still achieved many positive results. According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, up to 2020 bilateral trade between Cambodia and Vietnam grew 0.84 per cent compared to 2019, to the tune of $5.327 billion. Vietnam’s exports to Cambodia were $4.149 billion, down 5.3 per cent, while Cambodia’s exports to Vietnam soared to $1.178 billion, up 30.9 per cent over 2019.

Vietnam has 184 investment projects in Cambodia with a total capital of about $2.76 billion, ranking third among 78 countries and territories in which Vietnam has invested, after Russia and Laos. Vietnam started her Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Cambodia in 2005 and since 2015 has initiated up to 10 projects with a total capital of between $30-70 million per year, mainly in agriculture, banking and telecommunications.

According to the report of Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment, in the first two months of 2021 Vietnam had two capital-adjusted projects in Cambodia with an additional capital of $88.9 million.

The two countries also witnessed several developments in other sectors such as tourism, people-to-people exchange and culture, education-training and health collaboration.

Cooperation between relevant ministries, branches, localities and mass organisations of the two sides also recorded strong development.

The two countries have agreed to continue coordinating the implementation of the joint declarations and cooperation agreements, including the promotion of extensive information and education among the people, especially the young generation about the counties’ traditional, time-tested friendship and ties, the Protocol and Cooperation Plan on National Defence and Security, and the Minutes of the 18th Joint Cooperation Committee Meeting.

Our two countries can also be proud of close cooperation and mutual support in the fight against Covid-19, while maintaining trade and investment activities, especially ensuring a smooth exchange of goods across the common border.

On the international arena, Cambodia and Vietnam have always been trusted, close partners who support each other and work closely together for the common goods – especially within the framework of ASEAN cooperation and ASEAN-led mechanisms, the UN, WTO, ASEM, and Mekong Sub-region cooperation mechanisms – thus contributing to the maintenance of peace, stability, cooperation and development around the world. In particular, Vietnam appreciates Cambodia’s wholehearted support for her Chairmanship of ASEAN last year, and is committed to working closely with and support Cambodia in hosting ASEM this year and chairing ASEAN in 2022, among other regional and sub-regional fora.

With a long tradition of solidarity and important cooperation and development achievements in the past years – together with the political determination of the top leaders of the two countries, including Vietnam’s new leadership and fine personal rapport and trust established between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Chinh – we believe that good neighbour relations with traditional friendship, comprehensive and long-term sustainable cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam will continue to be further nurtured in the interest of our two peoples, for peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world over.

Vu Quang Minh is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to Cambodia