The foreign ministry’s National Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations organised a recent workshop on the Law of the Sea for officials from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

The training was intended to strengthen the understanding of maritime policy and security for policy makers, as well as coast guard and naval officers.

Specialists in international relations and strategy regarded the training as important for Cambodia, noting that these laws are complex.

The Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security of the University of Wollongong led the four-day course, which was attended by 23 maritime policy and security officials, along with coast guard and naval officers from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

The training, held in collaboration with the Australian embassy in Cambodia, was held in Siem reap province from November 20-24. National diplomacy institute president Cheuy Vichet and Australian embassy deputy head of mission Andreas Zurbrugg were in attendance, according to a December 1 ministry press release.

It explained that the course covered key principles of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982, as well as the rights and duties of states in different maritime zones and navigational regimes. 

“The participants also analysed how the Law of the Sea developed through state practice and negotiation, and evaluated its diverse implementation. In addition, they considered how the Law of the Sea provisions have been interpreted and how the law relates to other aspects of international law, including areas such as fisheries, the environment and scientific research,” it said.

“They also considered third-party settlements of disputes under Part XV of the UNCLOS,” it added.

Thong Mengdavid, a research supervisor at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, believes the training would play an important role in strengthening the capacity and knowledge of the Cambodian officials who experience the challenges of maritime security and crimes.

He noted Australia’s key role in strengthening international law and protecting free, open and safe marine traffic for Cambodia and the ASEAN bloc.

“Cambodia has had many problems at sea with neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, but all these issues must be resolved peacefully, based on international law,” he said.

He added that the Kingdom should collaborate with other maritime nations to develop a clearer understanding of maritime law. Cambodia should also be active with regional and international institutions to prevent them from dividing in opinion and tension, especially with neighbouring countries.

Seng Vanly, a regional political observer and lecturer in international relations, said Cambodia had sought the assistance of several partners, including Australia, to provide training courses and scholarships to officials and other people in international law, especially maritime law.

He said Cambodia is close to the sea and has many experienced sailors and cartographers, but still lacks experts in maritime issues, which are evolving rapidly.

“Maritime issues are important ones and disputes are often born of an ignorance of international law. To address claims to the right to occupy overlapping maritime spheres, we need to solve maritime security issues and deepen our state-to-state relationships. This is why a priority has been placed on a study of maritime law,” explained Vanly.

He added that the Australian-funded training was important for officials working in the field. 

Vanly agreed that maritime law is complex, with some countries holding controversial interpretations.