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Japan Offers $103M Aid and Loan To Cambodia; Both Vow to Strengthen Relations, Cooperation

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet meets Foreign Affairs Minister of Japan Kamikawa Yoko during her official visit to Phnom Penh, July 6, 2024. (Photo from PM Hun Manet’s Telegram channel Hun Manet)
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet meets Foreign Affairs Minister of Japan Kamikawa Yoko during her official visit to Phnom Penh, July 6, 2024. (Photo from PM Hun Manet’s Telegram channel Hun Manet)

Cambodian and Japanese bilateral relationship and cooperation have further strengthened, following a visit by Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Yoko Kamikawa on July 6. Japan will be providing a total of $103 million in aid, grant and loan to Cambodia for various purposes.

The financial assistance consists of an official development assistance (ODA) of eight billion yen (approximately $50 million), 8.3 billion yen ($51.5 million) loan for National Road 5 rehabilitation and a human resource grant of $2.7 million to the Kingdom.

The ODA will be allocated to the Phnom Penh City Transmission and Distribution System Expansion Project to improve the investment environment and draw more Japanese investment.

Bilateral and multilateral frameworks would help strengthen Cambodia’s sustainability and co-create social value, focusing on human resource development and the use of Japanese technology, according to a joint statement by Japan and Cambodia.

Based on Cambodia’s development and cooperative achievements between the two nations, Japan was keen on developing “three new cooperation approaches”, namely social infrastructure development, maritime connectivity and humanitarian mine action.

Under the social infrastructure sector, Japan would assist in deploying the Phnom Penh model water supply systems in regional areas as part of their collaboration in the water  field. In addition, Japan would develop the sewerage in Phnom Penh and promote the development of digital and cyber security.

Minister Kamikawa, who met with Prime Minister Hun Manet, mentioned that the  areas of collaboration for Japan and Cambodia are steadily expanding after years of cooperation. The eastern nation would like to cooperate with Cambodia to develop Sihanoukville Port as a hub port and logistics base for Cambodia and the region to strengthen maritime connectivity. Both the Cambodian navy and Japanese Coast Guard want to cooperate and conduct human resource training and joint training.

Japan welcomed the progress of third-party assistance in humanitarian mine action based on the long-standing Japanese-Cambodian collaboration. She expressed her desire to cooperate with Cambodia to promote third-party assistance, develop demining technology, and raise awareness in the international community.

“I would like to present Japan’s vision for humanitarian mine action. First, consistent and comprehensive efforts are essential for humanitarian mine action. It is important not only to detect and clear mines, but also to provide mine risk education to help people avoid the risk of mine damage and to provide victim assistance,” said Kamikawa.

In order to utilize the technology and equipment safely, training of personnel based on thorough safety management is necessary. In providing these supports, it is also essential to involve a wide range of relevant stakeholders, making use of the technologies and know-how of the private sector and the knowledge of academia. 

Japan will continue to provide assistance in each of the phases of humanitarian mine action like mine risk education, mine detection and clearance, and victim assistance, in cooperation with stakeholders, and bearing in mind the perspective of Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) based on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.

“Cambodia is now one of the world leaders in humanitarian mine action, having made steady progress in mine clearance in its own territory,” she added.

In response, Hun Manet expressed his gratitude for Japan’s support in humanitarian mine action in Cambodia, saying that he would support Japan’s initiative and that he would like to further collaborate with Japan in this field in third countries, such as Ukraine.

While he appreciated the long-standing support by Japan and Japanese people, he said he would like to advance cooperation with Japan under the “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”. Cambodia was also ready to hold a meeting of the Ottawa Convention and thanked the Japanese side for their contribution and support to the organizing process.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sok Chenda Sophea said the three areas supported by Japan were in line with Cambodia’s Pentagonal Strategy, which attaches great importance to the development of water supply and sewage systems, a digital society and Sihanoukville Port as the core port and logistics hub in the region to strengthen connectivity.

The Cambodian government would like to collaborate with Japan in the sphere of humanitarian mine action in the international arena and expressed his support for the three new cooperation approaches, Sok Chenda said.

The two foreign ministers agreed to work together to strengthen Cambodia’s sustainability and further co-create social value, with the Japanese government pledging to provide about eight billion yen for the expansion of the power line in Phnom Penh.

Japan offered about $2.7 million for the implementation of the Human Resource Development Scholarship Project and $51.5 million concessional loan to rehabilitate National Road 5 which connected Phnom Penh to the Thai border.

Chum Sounry, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, could not be reached for comment. 

According to Heng Ratana, the director of Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), Japan has provided Cambodia with approximately $200 million aid since 1994. It has helped Cambodia in three ways through bilateral and multilateralism efforts, and assisted non-governmental organizations.

Firstly, they educate and increase mine awareness, which is urgent. Secondly, they build up the number of skilled Cambodian forces to meet the demand of the mines sector both nationally and internationally. Thirdly, they strengthen the Cambodian force to help third countries clear mines with Japan, which uses science and technology developed by Japanese companies, such as mine equipment.

For now, Japan is helping by sharing mine-predicting AI technology and strengthening the ability of landmine countries. “For example, the CMAC had training by demining experts from Colombia, so they were already helping us,” Ratana said.

“The ​mines and munition situation is still a big problem in Cambodia. I really hope donor countries, especially Japan, will continue to help Cambodia ensure the safety of the people and the development of our country,” he added.

Pen Bona, government spokesperson told CamboJA News that Cambodia is a sovereign state that has been playing an important role in the region and the world, so Cambodia is a friend to all countries, which care about Cambodia. One of them is Japan. The visit by the Japanese Foreign Minister to Cambodia is evident that Japan remained interested in bilateral relations between Cambodia and Japan.

“As we know, Cambodia and Japan have a good and confident relationship. Cambodia and Japan have increased the level of comprehensive partnership in 2023,” Bona said.

Recently, Cambodia and Japan prioritized the dialogue on defense and foreign relations.

“Thus, the relationship between Cambodia and Japan was better. The partnership has expanded and grown from strength to strength,” said Bona.

Bona stressed that Cambodia was a liberal, multi-party democracy and in terms of respect for human rights is  based on Cambodian law, the constitution and the rule of law. Cambodia has enough (laws) to implement all those principles.

Pa Chanroeun, president of Cambodian Institute for Democracy said although sectors in Cambodia have been growing over the last decade they still need support. Japan is a crucial donor and development partner for Cambodia, both in terms of grants and technical assistance to ensure that Cambodia could develop itself.

“In particular, the focus is on strengthening cooperation as well as digital security assistance and irrigation infrastructure development,” he said, stating that these are key tasks for Cambodia to have a socio-economic foundation to move towards high-level development in the future.

However, “as an activist for democracy, I would like to see Japan find ways to help Cambodia enhance respect for human rights and the democratic process, so that we can become a free democracy, like Japan.”

(Additional reporting by Ly Rosslan)