Prime Minister Hun Sen has told Cambodians on a visit to Europe that the upsurge in Chinese nationals living in Cambodia will ease as Chinese construction projects are completed in a bid to ease rising anti-Chinese sentiment in the country.
A large influx of Chinese nationals to Cambodia in recent years has led to increased anti-Chinese sentiment.
Speaking during a meeting with Cambodians in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Hun Sen said Chinese investors needed to rely on imported labor for their construction projects in the Kingdom, but that the influx was temporary.
“Some people are concerned about Chinese in Preah Sihanouk province. Brothers and sisters, there are a lot of construction projects, we can't provide enough manpower for all the technicalities. So we need to give way for them to bring in the workers to do construction, such as bridge construction and others where the technology is complex for us,” he said.
“Once they're done with their work, they will not stay in Cambodia. They will go back. Please have no doubt about that. We don't have any law which will allow them to stay as well,” he added.
He said that China has never invaded another nation like other countries which have stationed troops in Cambodia in the past.
“Frankly speaking, China has never brought its military past its border, while other countries who used their military to invade Cambodia many times, as you can see. In the context of investment, we provide workers. That's why building human resources is important,” he added.
Large numbers of Chinese workers have come to Cambodia to work on projects as China has strengthened its diplomatic and military ties with Beijing which has provided numerous grants and large military aid packages to Cambodia.
The new arrivals have had an impact on the livelihoods of local people, according to residents in Preah Sihanouk province.
Yu Vesna, a Preah Sihanouk province resident and a member of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC), an NGO working on the protection of land rights, spoke of the impact on the real estate market in Sihanouk province.
“The rise in the economy of the Chinese has an impact on the locals, which is rising land prices. The rise in land prices in turn has caused land grabbing from the powerful [people] in the province,” Veasna claimed.
He argued that the government should impose new rules governing the activities of Chinese immigrants.
“Now there are two commissions to control the Chinese. Firstly, the committee of Interior Minister Sar Kheng and the committee of Land Management Minister Chea Sophara. This is just for the image and to take advantage of the Chinese. There's no protection of interests. It's just ripping them off for money,” he said.
Meas Ny, a social development analyst, said that the Cambodian leadership was intent on bringing the country ever closer to China and Russia amid worsening relations with the west over the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s human rights abuses and anti-democratic behavior.
“The government can still survive, but wider society will struggle,” he said.