Cambodia pursues an independent rules-based foreign policy that upholds its core interests, guarantees sovereignty and peace, and boosts economic ties, said foreign minister Prak Sokhonn.

Sokhonn made the remarks while briefing the National Assembly’s (NA) Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and Media on “Cambodia’s Foreign Policy in the New Context of the New World Order” on February 1.

“Over the last five years, the world has evolved an international system with a global, multi-polar and complicated nature. This evolution has led to profound, rapid and precarious transformations,” he said.

Sokhonn underlined the foreign policy principles to which the Kingdom will continue to adhere, despite fierce competition and uncertainty in the realm of international relations. The principles are intended to protect Cambodia’s core interests in compliance with the Constitution, he said, adding that the Kingdom’s proactive diplomacy was designed to guarantee sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, peace and socio-economic development.

“Cambodia’s foreign policy is in line with the objectives and principle of the UN and ASEAN charters, and aims to strengthen economic ties with both existing and new partners,” he said.

Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, said the Kingdom’s foreign policy has always focused mainly on the principles of peace and followed the middle course. This has enabled Cambodia to maintain neutrality, sovereignty and territorial integrity, which in turn protects the peace, prosperity and development of the nation and its people.

“These principles were demonstrated last year, when Cambodia as ASEAN chair addressed numerous regional economic and security issues. As a small nation, Cambodia must make friends and avoid bias towards any superpower. Cambodia adopts the rules of international law, in the spirit of multilateralism and peace, with the UN at its core,” he added.

“Cambodian foreign policy is flexible, smart and pragmatic. This allows the Kingdom to respond quickly to new developments, and means it can efficiently address the problems of a changing and tumultuous world,” he concluded.

Seng Vanly, a lecturer in international relations and a regional political observer, said that over the past five years – especially in its 2022 ASEAN chairmanship – Cambodia had remained cautious and flexible, in line with international principles and its own Constitution. Cambodia, like many other small nations, was more or less influenced by geopolitical competitions between the US and China and the Russian-Ukraine crisis.

“Obviously, when Cambodia joined the US in supporting resolutions condemning the Russian aggression against Ukraine, it was not easy. The Kingdom was under pressure from Russia. And there were even claims that the government had delivered military aid to Ukraine, though it was merely humanitarian assistance,” he added.

“If Cambodia had not condemned the invasion, it would have ignored a large state’s aggression against a smaller one – and Cambodia is a small state,” he continued.

Vanly said he supports policies that strengthen economic cooperation with other partners, like China, provided that the policies are flexible and diversified for the benefit of Cambodia.

However, he urged caution about foreign policy which deals with security or defence policy, citing the criticism the Kingdom received for allegedly hosting a Chinese military base on its territory as an example.

He added that Cambodia should find ways to turn problems into opportunities, but that this could only be done while the Kingdom enjoys political stability, a favourable environment for investment and the rule of law.