The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on January 24 "categorically dismissed" the classification of Cambodia under the category of “military supporter of Ukraine” as published in an infographic originating from the Telegram channel “Demografiya Upala”.
This came after Cambodia provided training in demining to Ukrainian officers with Japan’s assistance.
“The decision to provide technical training in mine clearance to Ukrainian deminers in Cambodia – in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA] – is purely made on a humanitarian basis as similarly demonstrated by our many peacekeeping missions in Africa and the Middle East under the auspices of the UN,” it said.
The ministry urged the Telegram channel to rectify the graphic, saying that it is not only inaccurate but could prove to be detrimental to Cambodia as a peace-loving country which strictly adheres to a foreign policy of neutrality and non-aggression as anchored in its Constitution.
Recently, Cambodia ran a one-week training course for Ukrainian officers on demining with the participation of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) and JICA.
Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, said the inclusion of Cambodia as among Ukraine's military supporters was a serious mistake. He said the Kingdom has always abided by international principles and laws to maintain peace in the region and beyond and does not support the use of war as a means to end any conflicts.
“Cambodia clearly understands the value of peace. So, the information was baseless and meant to slander and tarnish Cambodia’s reputation and it can affect bilateral relations with Russia,” he added.
Rim Sokvy, co-founder of The Thinker Cambodia – a local think tank – said that sending mine clearance officials and providing training were humanitarian assistance.
He said the publication of the information presented a problem for Cambodia as it has maintained its neutrality in line with the Constitution. Cambodia, he added, does not allow any foreign country to host military personnel, nor does it send military personnel to foreign lands outside of the UN peacekeeping mandate.
“When they publish that Cambodia is giving military aid to Ukraine, that could stoke conflict with Russia and make an enemy for Cambodia out of Russia and that is the opposite of what is going on for Cambodia-Russia relations,” he said.
Back on November 1, before Cambodia hosted the ASEAN Summit and related meetings, Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the phone and said that he might visit Ukraine at an appropriate time. Hun Sen also agreed to Zelensky’s proposal to appoint ambassadors between the two countries and to provide humanitarian aid as well as demining assistance.