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Diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Japan reach new heights

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Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida during a joint press conference at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Sunday. The outcomes of Kishida’s visit reflected the trust-based strategic partnership and people-centred relationship between the two countries. SPM

Diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Japan reach new heights

Japan is one of the key strategic and development partners of Cambodia. Japan has wholeheartedly assisted Cambodia to build a bridge towards peace and prosperity and connect the Kingdom to the region and the world.

The outcomes of the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reflected the trust-based strategic partnership and people-centred relationship between the two countries.

Noticeably, the joint statement is very substantive. Many shared positions on international and regional issues are highlighted. It is safe to say that the Cambodia-Japan relationship has reached new heights, with higher level of strategic trust and political commitment. This does not happen out of the thin air. Japan’s contribution to Cambodia’s peace and prosperity has been registered in the history of Cambodia and, more importantly, in the heart of the entire Cambodian population.

Indeed, Japan has significantly contributed to the peace-making, peace-keeping, and peace-building processes in Cambodia since the late 1980s. After the general election in 1993, Japan has put efforts and resources into the rehabilitation and development of Cambodia, from infrastructure development to human resources development and institutional building. Through these sincere efforts, Japan has won the trust of the Cambodian people. This is the most critical factor in bilateral relations. Mutual respect, mutual understanding, mutual trust, and mutual interests have been the guiding principles of the partnership.

As this year marks the 30th anniversary of Japan’s peacekeeping operation in the Kingdom, there is a good reason to celebrate. Japan has built a solid foundation for long-lasting peace in the Cambodia and importantly transformed Cambodia from a recipient of peacekeeping to the sending country of peacekeepers under the framework of the United Nations.

Cambodia’s post-conflict successful story is a miracle of the Mekong, where the Kingdom has strived to play a role as a bridging state towards the outside world. As a small and open economy, Cambodia has always been a strong proponent of trade liberalisation, investment promotion, and technological transfer and a proactive player in the promotion of regional integration. To this end, it needs to have a most credible and reliable logistics hub. Logistics development and modernisation, institutional reforms, and human capital development are critical to Cambodia’s trade liberalisation and facilitation.

Japan is one of the key development partners that can help Cambodia realise its vision to become a hub of the Mekong. By the same token, Japan’s support in transforming the Sihanoukville port into an international port for the Mekong region is critical as Cambodia is embarking on a new era of economic diplomacy and international integration.

Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the bilateral relationship. Therefore, it is expected to have more concrete, practical cooperation initiatives and activities between the two countries.

Remarkably, it is for the first time that two Cambodian think tanks, the Asian Vision Institute (AVI) and the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), have been recognised and entrusted to be the key intellectual bridges connecting the two peoples.

Cambodian think tanks increasingly play an important role in policy research and consultation, capacity building, strengthening the democratic process, and shaping public opinion. Japan has significantly contributed to the development of think tanks in Cambodia.

Looking forward, Cambodia and Japan will continue to work closely together to build a new era of the strategic partnership with the continued focus on a people-centric approach and the realisation of a modern and civilised Cambodia, including the transformation of the Kingdom into a high-income country by 2050.

Of course, it will be a long journey ahead for Cambodia. To walk far, Cambodia needs international friends and partners. Japan is one of the keys trusted friends and partners that Cambodia can rely on in a journey towards preserving identity, promoting modernity, and building civilisation for the interest of her citizens and the people in Asia and beyond.

Suos Yara is a Member of Parliament from Cambodia.

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