The former head of Cambodia’s main opposition party, Sam Rainsy, has warned Chinese nationals and investors in Cambodia to be sensitive to Cambodian culture and the political situation in the country.
Writing on his Facebook page, the acting leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party said the large influx of Chinese immigrants to Cambodia, coinciding with a construction boom and waning relations with the West, could lead to a backlash from locals.
“Those Chinese must be aware of the rancor they're provoking among the local Cambodian population. They must be wary and stop abusing Cambodians and have some respect for the locals. If not, they might face a backlash from the locals when the new political developments take place in 2019,” he wrote.
He added that Chinese investors should “return the land that has been seized from the people with the collusion with oppressive and corrupt authorities.”
“They must close the casinos that are widespread nationwide and take their mafia and triad gangs associated with their investments and establishments in Cambodia back to China,” he said.
Rainsy has vowed to return to Cambodia to take on Prime Minister Hun Sen, but authorities say he will be arrested upon his return on outstanding treason allegations.
The Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment.
Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, dismissed Rainsy’s comments, saying the politician was “raised to be a slave” to anti-Chinese foreign powers.
Meas Nee, a social commentator, said the concerns over the impact of large numbers of Chinese immigrants should be addressed by the government, not brushed aside so lightly.
“If we do not address the land dispute between the local and the Chinese firms properly and only resort to threats and the use of violence as in Sihanouk province as we can see previously, this causes the problem of discrimination to worsen, which makes it hard for the government to manage,” he said, referring to violent clashes between protesters and security forces in Preah Sihanouk province that left one protester seriously injured with a gunshot wound.
China is Cambodia’s strongest ally and biggest lender and donor. Trade between the two nations rose to $5.6 billion last year.
Hun Sen has said he wants to see the number of Chinese tourists in Cambodia rise five-fold in the coming years.