Cambodia is undergoing a period of diplomatic good fortune, with interest from both the US and China a boon to its future, an independent political analyst said Thursday.
“I don’t count it as bad luck,” said Chea Vannath, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” “It’s fortunate that the two countries have come to help.”
Cambodia saw two senior-level visits from both countries this week, including a stopover Monday by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who announced her commitment to funding the Khmer Rouge tribunal and to considering the question of Lon Nol-era debt.
Later in the week, China’s chief legislator, Wu Bangguo, arrived with a bundle of trade agreements and pledges of investment of up to $1.6 billion.
Chea Vannath said US-Chinese relations were irrelevant to the Cambodian picture.
“If they have differences, we don’t interfere,” she said.
Cambodia has so far done well to stay out of rows between Japan and China, who dispute ownership of some islands, as well as similar disputes between China and Vietnam over the Spratly Islands.
Responding to concerns that Cambodia could be drawn into a larger conflict, as it was when the US fought Northern Vietnam, Chea Vannath said Cambodia has maintained neutrality since the 1960s.
“We need both the US and China,” she said.
Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, said Cambodia was maintaining a balance in its relations with the US and China. “We do not undermine anyone’s interests,” he said. “We leave it to both sides, to superpower countries, to peacefully solve their mutual problems.”
During her visit here, Clinton told a forum of students that Cambodia should not shy away from friendships with other nations but that it should not rely solely on China.
Responding to concerns that Cambodia could tilt more toward a dictatorship under the sway of China or Vietnam, Chea Vannath said neither of the two countries were trending that way, especially in the way they conduct trade.
What Cambodia chooses to do with its aid is up to its leaders, she said.
“Cambodia itself can become a country that knows how to survive on its own and not depend on foreigners,” she said. “Our dependence on them should decline from year to year. If we continually depend on any superpower countries, or depend on any countries, we cannot be strong.”