Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Cambodia this month for the first time since he took office, according to officials.
General Neth Savoeun, the national police chief, wrote on his Facebook page on September 28 that he met with Wang Xiaohong, China’s vice minister of public security.
“Wang Xiaohong stated that the reason he came to Cambodia was to discuss with relevant institutions in regard to hosting the visit from the president of China, who will visit the Kingdom of Cambodia in October 2016” Savoeun wrote.
Kirt Chantharith, a spokesman for the national police, told VOA Khmer on Monday that Xi’s visit will last for two days, but an exact date and the details of the visit has not yet been determined.
“I am not sure [about the program], because it is at a higher level. I only know there will be a visit and preparation for the security,” he said.
Xi’s visit comes amid a wave of criticism against Cambodia from the international community over what western countries have described as politically motivated legal action taken against members of the opposition, human rights workers and government critics.
Ou Virak, founder of the Future Forum research institute, said the visit was a symbolic show of friendship from China, which is Cambodia’s biggest bilateral donor and lender.
Cambodia’s increasing reliance on China, he said, had diversified its support base, making the country less reliant on aid from western nations.
However, he added: “Relying heavily on China will make our economics not independent and when the economics is not independent, politics cannot be independent too.
“I can see that because of that democracy in Cambodia will be vulnerable in the future. In 10 years time, I think democracy in Cambodia will face more difficulties.”
China has distributed about $15 billion in loans to Cambodia in the past two decades. In 2016, it has already pledged $600 million.
Xi’s last visit to Cambodia was in 2009, when he was China’s vice president.