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Rising Debt to China ‘Worrying’, Analyst Says

  • Men Kimseng
  • VOA Khmer

FILE: A decoration of a portrait of Chinese president Xi Jinping, chief of Community Party ( L) and a portrait of Cambodian king Norodom Sihamoni ( R) to welcome president Xi to Cambodia on the corner of Sotharos Blvd and Sihanouk Blvd in Phnom Penh on Thursday, October 13, 2016. (Leng Len/VOA Khmer)

More than two-thirds of Cambodia’s $4.3 billion in bilateral debt is owed to China, according to the International Monetary Fund.

​Rising financial dependence on China should raise concerns over the capacity of Cambodia to remain independent, according to a leading analyst.

Ou Virak, founder and president of the Future Forum think tank, told the Hello VOA program on Monday that if Cambodia continued to accrue debt to China “it will fall into a Chinese trap.”

If Cambodia is isolated from international markets in the future, he added, there would be no other option but to rely even more heavily on Chinese aid and investment. “Once we have no choice, the Chinese will stop taking us seriously. This means at every negotiation, the Chinese will have the upper hand. This is my concern,” he said.

FILE: Ou Virak, Founder and President of Future Forum during VOA Khmer’s monthly radio call-in show in 2015. (Lim Sothy/VOA Khmer)
FILE: Ou Virak, Founder and President of Future Forum during VOA Khmer’s monthly radio call-in show in 2015. (Lim Sothy/VOA Khmer)

He gave the example of Sri Lanka, which had to relinquish control of the deep-sea port of Hambantota to a state-run Chinese holding company after falling into billions of dollars of debt. “This is a danger to national security, politics and the economy,” he said.

More than two-thirds of Cambodia’s $4.3 billion in bilateral debt is owed to China, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Trade between China and Cambodia has reached $4.8 billion per year, more than 80 percent of which is imports from China.

“There is nothing wrong with our friendship with China, but we import more from China than we export. Therefore, the economic relationship benefits China more than us.”

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