The Khmer Times, 21 December 2016
At the invitation of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen arrived in Hanoi yesterday to kick off a two-day state visit to further deepen traditional ties between the two countries and their people.
His last official visit to Vietnam took place three years ago in late December 2013.
Mr. Hun Sen was accompanied by Deputy PM and Minister of National Defense General Tea Banh, Senior Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhhon, Senior Minister and Chairman of Cambodia’s National Border Committee Var Kim Hong, Minister of Cults and Religion Him Chhem, Minister of Rural Development Ouk Rabun, Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon as well as other high-ranking government officials.
As both countries are preparing to celebrate their 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties, more cooperation projects and activities are going to take place from early next year. The most remarkable event will be the inauguration of the Long Binh-Chrey Thom Bridge which will connect the two nations.
Cambodia-Vietnam relations have been shaken in recent years by the rising power and influence of China in the region. Cambodia has pivoted to China for economic and security interests, putting Vietnam in a difficult position with Cambodia over the South China Sea issue.
However, Vietnam remains optimistic that its relations with Cambodia will remain strong and firm regardless of geopolitical changes. One of Vietnam’s core national interests is to ensure strong traditional ties with its two small immediate neighbors.
The challenges posed by power rivalry between China and the US in Southeast Asia have forced small countries to stick together and hedge against major powers for their long-term survival.
Vietnam has been striving to assert its leadership role in the Mekong region through the promotion of sub-regional cooperation and integration. The Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam development triangle is perhaps the platform for these countries to consolidate their relationship.
Recently the largest Vietnamese telecom corporation, Viettel, has introduced a free roaming service in the three countries to promote people-to-people ties as well as to lubricate business communications with the region.
Socio-cultural exchanges between the two countries will be further significantly strengthened to promote mutual understanding between the two peoples.
The “Vietnam threat” has been a much talked about subject in Cambodian politics. The opposition parties have accused the ruling CPP of being a puppet of Hanoi. And the politicization of the perception of a “Vietnam threat” has gained new momentum since the last general election in 2013.
Border issues and Vietnamese immigrants in Cambodia are the two thorny, sensitive issues in Cambodian politics. The Cambodian government has been accused of ceding territory to Vietnam and allowing Vietnamese to migrate easily to the Kingdom.
Regardless of those accusations, political attacks and the rising political cost attached to them, Mr. Hun Sen seems to remain committed to maintaining his deep personal ties and traditional friendship with Vietnam.
He firmly believes that Cambodia will not be able to maintain peace and development unless it has good and stable relations with all its immediate neighbors.
The principles of mutual respect, mutual interest, equal partnership, peaceful co-existence and non-interference in domestic affairs have been the guiding principles of relations.
Addressing hundreds of Vietnamese veterans on December 27, 2013, Mr. Hun Sen said that he would never forget the sacrifices that Vietnamese people made to liberalize his country from the Khmer Rouge regime.
Being the fifth largest investor and third largest trading partner, Vietnam is no doubt an important economic partner for Cambodia.
The total investment capital from Vietnam is $2.86 billion. The two-way trade volume topped $3.37 billion in 2015 and $2.38 billion by the end of October this year.
The trade volume between the two countries was expected to reach $5 billion in 2015, but failed mainly due to market factors. Transport and logistics connectivity needs to be improved to facilitate trade and investment.