Cambodia and Maldives have expanded bilateral ties through several agreements including tourist visa exemptions, the naming of a street in the Kingdom for the island nation and six more documents outlining newly formed cooperative initiatives.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced the deals during the former’s three-day state visit, which began on January 15.

“The people of Maldives and the people of Cambodia will be able to travel freely without having to hold a visa for up to 30 days,” Solih was quoted as saying at a joint press conference on January 16.

Solih also confirmed that Maldives will grant a scholarship to a Cambodian swimmer and offer training courses on hospitality to Cambodian officials to help boost the Kingdom’s tourism sector.

In turn, Cambodia will provide 10 scholarships to students from the remote island country to study at various universities in the Kingdom starting this year.

On trade, Solih said Maldives will import Cambodia’s “world-class” rice and other agricultural products such as corn, pepper, cassava and fruit. He said Maldives will also discuss other import possibilities for products such as garments, travel goods and timber.

“Our import diversification will not only make the prices of products drop but also strengthen our food security, as well as providing other options for our consumers,” he said through a translator.

He added that Hun Sen’s official visit laid the foundation for key areas in maintaining and elevating both countries’ relations in the future.

“I hope that following this visit, our two countries will maintain our momentum and enforce our commitments that we decided upon together today,” Solih said.

Hun Sen said the Kingdom will consider importing tuna and other ocean fish from Maldives. He said tuna should be the first product to be exported to Cambodia in large amounts due to high local demand.

Cambodia and Maldives first forged their diplomatic ties in 1995. To honour these relations, Hun Sen said he will name a street in a tourism spot in a coastal province the “Cambodia-Maldives Friendship Street”.

He invited Solih to visit Cambodia, especially during the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games hosted by the Kingdom in May, and also attend the inauguration of the friendship street.

“Maldives, I can say, is a wonder of the Indian Ocean. It is truly an attractive tourism destination. I can say that I am the last person in my family to visit Maldives as my wife and children have already visited here,” he said.

On regional issues, Maldives thanked Cambodia for supporting its request to be an ASEAN observer state. Hun Sen said he expected that ASEAN will approve Maldives as an observer as there is “no reason” for rejection.

“We have attracted other partners on other continents, so why not our neighbours in the region?” he asked rhetorically.

Hun Sen said Cambodia wishes to be an observing member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in light of the Kingdom’s racial and religious harmonisation and broad acceptance of its Muslim minority.

“We hope that Maldives will support us to be an observing member of the OIC,” he said.

Royal Academy of Cambodia secretary-general Yang Peou said that Hun Sen’s visit to Maldives marks another important foreign policy chapter which shows an exemplary approach to expanding international cooperation.

Peou said the rice export agreement is another step in the right direction for Cambodia in integrating its economy with that of the outside world.

“This shows once again that Cambodia doesn’t just have narrow foreign relations limited to just China and is not like other countries that have narrow political space for diplomacy, as claimed by some critics. In reality, Cambodia has good diplomatic ties with nearly all countries,” he said.