Cambodia has joined other nations around the world to mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, with King Norodom Sihanomi, Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly president Heng Samrin extending their condolences in separate letters.
In his letter to the late Queen’s son – now crowned King Charles III upon her passing – King Sihamoni wrote: “We pay a respectful homage to the memory of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving Head of State in the world, who shall be remembered for her great and constant devotion to her motherland. May her soul rest in peace.”
Similarly, Prime Minister Hun Sen shared his condolences with his new UK counterpart Liz Truss, writing that the demise of Queen Elizabeth II was not only a great loss to the UK and the Commonwealth, but also to the world at large.
He said Queen Elizabeth II, who became a beloved public figure over the course of her long reign for her discipline and inspiration, will forever be remembered in the hearts of all British people and many others around the world.
“In this time of sadness, please allow me to extend my deepest sorrows, sympathies and condolences on behalf of the government and people of Cambodia … to the bereaved families of the Royal Households for this immense loss. May her soul rest in peace,” he wrote.
UK politics has undergone a major change in just one week’s time with the new prime minister taking office followed closely by the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the crowning of King Charles III.
Some analysts told The Post that the changes could result in some small shifts in international politics but would not greatly affect Cambodian-British diplomatic relations because Britain has a clear foreign policy line drawn from its institutions and not based on individual preferences.
“The world’s political geography may slightly change with a change of leadership for the UK, but just a little change because the UK has a steady political system. The country’s leaders are just representatives of the larger institutions,” said political analyst Seng Sary.
With the reign of King Charles III, Sary said there could be some changes to the internal politics of the Commonwealth member states due to his leadership style and particular areas of interest and advocacy such as environmentalism and climate change, though as a constitutional monarch he has no direct control over government policy.
“There may also be a change in leadership style because the way men and women work is often different, but we know that Queen Elizabeth II had good relations with the Commonwealth countries and with other nations, even though some of them were not democracies,” he said.
The Commonwealth is an intergovernmental body of 53 member states spread across five continents. Most of them are former UK colonial territories and some still recognize the UK monarch as their official head of state despite their independence.
Regarding the UK-Cambodia ties, Sary sees it as a stable relationship that has been maintained without much difficulty for decades and expects no major changes to the political agenda or diplomatic relations.
In comparison, Sary took note of relationship between Cambodia and France, explaining that Cambodia was under French colonial rule for almost a hundred years from 1863 to 1953 but today have good bilateral relations, with France proving to be a reliable development partner and donor.
In Sophal, a researcher and political observer with some knowledge of Cambodian-British affairs, has similar views. He said diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Britain are not expected to change much, partly because Truss is former foreign minister in Boris Johnson’s administration and from the same party.
He also pointed out that the British monarch was no different from Cambodia’s in that he reigns as head of state but does not govern and therefore changes in the British monarchy would not affect British government policy.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Truss has similar political stances and tendencies to her predecessor Boris Johnson.
“The international political situation is not going to change much because the UK is still using Johnson’s original political positions. Because Cambodia is a small country, they do not have any specific diplomatic policy, so all that might change is the working attitude between the leaders, but the UK’s plans won’t change,” Phea said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan agreed that political changes in Britain with a new prime minister and new king will not have any negative impact on bilateral relations between Cambodia and Britain.
He said the Cambodian and British governments have always had good relations and cooperation and that the monarchies of the UK and Cambodia have always enjoyed cordial relations and shown great regard for each other without any issues.
Siphan explained that just recently, prior to making their “brexit” from the EU, the UK had helped Cambodia by supporting its status under the bloc’s Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade scheme.
Once they had left the EU, the UK provided Cambodia with its own preferential trade access under its Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) and continues to do so despite a partial EBA withdrawal by the EU in August 2020. The UK has also assisted Cambodia with demining, among other projects, according to Siphan.
Siphan said he hoped that relations between the two countries will continue on their current positive trajectory and expand even further in future as the two countries continue to strengthen their bilateral cooperation.
According to data from the General Department of Customs and Excise, the bilateral trade volume between Cambodia and the UK in the first seven months of this year was valued at more than $581 million, an increase of 45 per cent over the same period in 2021.