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Foreign Minister Says Cambodia is Also a Victim of the South China Sea Issue

FRANCE: Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon expressed regret over the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China in the South China Sea, which he said has affected countries in the region, including Cambodia.

Addressing the Ministerial Forum for Indo-Pacific Cooperation in Paris, France on Tuesday, 22 February, Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhon said that the South China Sea is indeed an area that is a mix of both great importance and interest, which is clearly dangerous. He added that the countries that should be involved are the countries that are in dispute with China over sovereignty in this part of the sea, despite the legal and historical arguments raised for their claims.

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn added that although Cambodia has not had any disputes over the sea, the United States has dragged Cambodia into the issue.

In a statement issued on the night of Wednesday, 23 February, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs quoted Prak Sokhonn saying: "Because of everything China does in the region, it is closely monitored and analyzed by the United States. Even the agreement between Cambodia and China on the rehabilitation and modernization of the Ream naval base has been at the center of allegations, placing pressure to the point of intimidation. While the base renovation work is underway, we have already been accused of giving China a monopoly on the base."

He further stated at the forum in France with ministers from more than 30 European and Indo-Pacific member states, that Cambodia would not allow foreign military presence on its territory and would also not send any Cambodian troops to other countries, except under the auspices of the United Nations through peacekeeping missions.

The Foreign Minister added that the Ream Naval Base is a small base surrounded by hotels and tourist sites, which has no purpose other than the protection of the sea and the sovereignty of Cambodia's territorial integrity.

He said, “As a sovereign country, Cambodia has every right to choose the most effective means to protect our nation, but we will do so with the utmost respect for our constitution.”

In November 2021, the United States blacklisted two Cambodian generals, the Director General of Technical Equipment of the Ministry of Defense, Chao Phirun, and Navy Commander, Tea Vinh. The US enforced the Global Magnitsky Penal Code over dissatisfaction of its aid base being destroyed at Ream Naval Base by the Cambodian side.

After the sanctions were imposed, both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense came out to state that the arrangement at the Ream Sea base is only a modernization of the base, and Cambodia has always been transparent with the United States over such changes, but the US still take this opportunity as an excuse to oppress Cambodia again and again for personal gain and profit in an ongoing geopolitical competition.

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