Prime Minister Hun Sen assured his Malaysian counterpart Anwar Ibrahim that his government will continue to strengthen and expand bilateral relations between the two nations.

Hun Sen made the pledge during the latter’s official one-day visit to Cambodia on March 27.

Addressing a press conference at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh after their bilateral discussions, Hun Sen noted that this was not the first time that he had met Anwar.

“We had a memorable moment at a meal in Kuala Lumpur in 1996. Now, we meet again 27 years later in Phnom Penh. Again, I must congratulate you on your election as prime minister,” Hun Sen said.

Hun Sen said he and Anwar had exchanged views on regional and international issues of common concern such as the Myanmar crisis and the situation of the Rohingya, tensions in the South China Sea, hostilities on the Korean peninsula, as well as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“I am optimistic that our two countries will participate together in solving challenges across the region and the world in order to strengthen solidarity, unity and ASEAN centrality with the aim of protecting peace, stability and prosperity in ASEAN and globally,” he said.

The two leaders committed to promoting efforts at cooperation in all sectors, including trade, investment, education, tourism, energy and people-to-people exchanges.

“I stressed my sincere commitment to work closely with [Anwar] to continue strengthening and expanding our bilateral cooperation in all areas,” he said.

On tourism, Hun Sen suggested that the memorandum of understanding (MoU) that both countries had previously signed just need to be effectively implemented now in order to reap its benefits.

He also urged the Malaysian side to help Cambodia develop more Muslim-friendly tourism through training and technical support.

“In the agriculture sector, we agreed to continue effectively enforcing our signed MoU on cooperation for the bamboo industry’s development in Cambodia,” he said.

Addressing plans for cooperation in the energy sector, Hun Sen said he had already requested that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong agree to support the construction of an undersea power transmission cables so that Cambodia can export green energy to the city-state, which will pass through Malaysian territory.

Singaporean firm Keppel Energy has already been granted conditional approval by the city-state’s regulatory body to develop infrastructure and capacity to take advantage of the Kingdom’s predicted green energy surplus once all of its solar and hydropower projects under planning go online. Keppel inked an agreement with Cambodia-based Royal Group to jointly develop the scheme.

Hun Sen said that Anwar has already raised the topic with Lee, and that he regarded this as a good development for the expansion of cooperation between the three countries.

Hun Sen also encouraged Malaysian investors to join in the development of food processing facilities in Cambodia as well as its halal industry, among others.

“Both sides have agreed to strengthen our cooperation between relevant entities and exchange visits of delegations, especially officials focused on combating human trafficking and money laundering.

“We are also considering drafting an MoU between the Malaysian and Cambodian national police departments on combating transnational crimes,” he said.

Both sides also expressed their commitment to working together in a variety of tech and online sectors like information, telecommunications, digital economy and cyber security.

Both leaders had witnessed the signing of an MoU on the recruitment of and deportation of workers and house maids, with Hun Sen urging the implementation of existing mechanism in protecting Cambodian workers in Malaysia.

At the Peace Palace meeting, an MoU was signed on the recruitment and deportation processes for maids, housekeepers and similar low-skilled labour. Hun Sen said that existing agreements on this topic need to be implemented fully.

Anwar made smilar pledges, saying through his interpreter that he looks forward to meeting Hun Sen and other ASEAN leaders in Indonesia later this year to discuss many issues, in particular finding lasting solutions to Myanmar’s civil conflict and political tensions.

“I thanked Prime Minister Hun Sen for his positions on the issues of the South China Sea, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the situation on the Korean Peninsula and on China-Taiwan concerns. We share similar views and I am looking forward to seeing him again when he visits Kuala Lumpur,” he was quoted as saying.

In closing, Hun Sen had some words of wisdom for Anwar as he tackles the challenges that come with his new role as Malaysia’s head of government. He recalled that many years ago, he went through a similar situation and it caused a great deal of hardship and uncertainty for his wife Bun Rany back in 1977.

That was the year that Hun Sen began to suspect that other Khmer Rouge cadres were planning to kill him and other eastern region military officers in a political purge and they defected to Vietnam to begin laying the groundwork to topple Pol Pot’s regime, which they achieved just two years later.

“Let me send some words from my wife to your wife, because now both of them have similar fates. When husbands are facing difficulties, our wives must bear all the burdens. My wife and I had been separated for so long back then that my son began calling me his uncle.

“Your Excellency, please send our regards to your wife and let her know we are thinking of her and that we have not forgotten her friendship,” he said.