Prime Minister Hun Manet acknowledged that Cambodia and China have cooperated to tackle internet scamming, fraud and other cross border crimes, but insisted that the “Kingdom of Wonders” is completely peaceful and safe. He welcomed tourists to come and explore its rich heritage.

During a television interview with the China Media Group during his visit to China to attend the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in October – which was released on his social media on November 1 – Manet said that the authorities of Cambodia and China have been jointly dealing with “criminal elements” for several years.

“These criminal activities not only affect trade and the reputation of the country, but the safety of the population who have to live in the areas that are affected. In addition to our cooperation with China, I have placed an emphasis on reform.

“We have set five priorities under the new government, in terms of reform. They include the civil services, health, education, law enforcement, and judicial reform, in order to strengthen our ability and commitment to fight against cross-border crimes, drugs, and other criminal activities.

“Our National Police are working with their Chinese counterparts and other relevant ministries in order to strengthen cooperation in our joint efforts to combat these types of activities,” he said.

Cambodia has launched the “China Ready” programme to attract more Chinese visitors to the Kingdom, but this comes against a backdrop of security concerns posed by internet fraud gangs.

A recent statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) claimed that an estimated 100,000 people were being held captive and forced to work for online scam gangs in Cambodia, although the claims were roundly dismissed by Cambodian authorities.

The concerns of the Chinese public have been stoked by a provocative feature film called “No More Bets” which depicts torture scenes by criminal gangs.

Response to a question on his concerns about the effect on tourism, Manet said that he was aware that some news reports have raised worries among Chinese tourists, as well as misconceptions about the security situation as a whole.

“We acknowledge that there are some issues, but no country has zero crimes. Every nation experiences some crime, but these crimes or criminal activities do not represent the whole of Cambodia. Besides small issues in certain areas, Cambodia is overall a peaceful country, and very secure,” he said.

Manet called on visitors, especially from China, to visit Cambodia themselves, and explore all of the opportunities that Cambodia has to offer, as is made apparent in its slogan, “Kingdom of Wonder”.

He cited the many international visitors who had enjoyed good experiences while visiting Cambodia, nearly all of whom described the Cambodian people as nice and friendly and always smiling.

“We have a rich cultural heritage and many spectacular temples. I appeal to our Chinese friends and other guests to come and visit Cambodia and explore what it has to offer, through our culture, our people and our connection,” he added.