Cambodian leaders are facing a very uncertain Asean in recent weeks, with anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam pitting two of the country’s standards allies against each other and a Thai coup sealing the western borders and leaving a neighbor in the hands of military control.
Both issues greatly affect regional stability, and Cambodia, geographically, is right in the middle of them, said Chheang Vannarith, a lecturer in Asia Pacific Studies at Leeds University in Leeds, United Kingdom.
“These are two issues that affect the stability and security in the region, as well as in Cambodia,” he said.
The Thai coup is of particular concern, he said, following a prolonged military standoff over the border between 2008 and 2011.
The protests in Vietnam, meanwhile, will put pressure on different camps within Cambodia’s power structure, he told “Hello VOA” Thursday.
“We have two groups, one close to Hanoi and the other close to Beijing,” he said.
Conflict in the South China Sea itself could also hurt Cambodia, which relies on it for the movement of imports and exports, he said.
To navigate the current tensions, Cambodia needs to maintain neutrality, which is stipulated in the constitution and does not allow the use of its territory for third parties, he said. And Cambodia must keep in mind it needs more than one strategic partner. That means maintaining a good relationship with China, as well as countries in Southeast Asia.