Cambodia Requests Russia’s Support to become Observer in Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Namhong holds bilateral talks with Russian Ambassador to Cambodia Anatoly Borowik. Photo from Hor Namhong's Facebook.
  • Sao Phal Niseiy
  • October 14, 2020 1:28 PM

Former Foreign Affairs Minister and current Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong met with Russian Ambassador Anatoly Borowik to discuss Cambodia’s debt and possible ascension within the Eurasian intergovernmental organization.

PHNOM PENH--Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong on Tuesday (Oct. 13) requested support from the Russian government to help Cambodia become to an observing nation at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)—the intergovernmental organization spanning across Eurasia.

Founded in 2001 with the main purposes of safeguarding regional security and stability, as well as to bolster trade, cultural and humanitarian cooperation among countries, the SCO currently consists of eight member states including China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Namhong’s request was made during the bilateral talks with Russian Ambassador to Cambodia Anatoly Borowik, according to a statement published on Hor Namhong’s official Facebook page.

“Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong requested the Russian government to assist Cambodia to become an observer of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and also a future member state, as the Russian Federation is the current chair of the organization this year,” the statement read.

Cambodia became a dialogue partner in 2015 during the 15th SCO summit held in the southwestern Russian city of Ufa with Russia’s support. Other current dialogue partners include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey

In response, Ambassador Anatoly Borowik said he would report the request of the Cambodian side to Moscow, according to same statement.

Cambodia and the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) established diplomatic relations in 1956, and the ties between them were cut off during the Khmer Rouge Regime before they were later resumed in 1979.

In 1991, the late King Norodom Sihanouk also recognized the Russian Federation as the successor state to the USSR. Since, then bilateral relations have continued to grow. 

As next year will mark the 65th anniversary of the diplomatic relations, Namhong also suggested that both countries celebrate together to showcase the close cooperation and relations between the two nations.

Cambodia Repeated Request for Russia to Resolve Wartime Debt

In the same meeting, Namhong, who served as Foreign Affairs Minister twice, recalled the Russian government’s economic and development assistance to Cambodia after the collapse of Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, during which Cambodian people were starving and trying to rebuild the country from scratch.

He noted that the debt of $1.5 billion that Cambodia owed Russia after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime remained unpaid. He went on to say that the war debt had contributed to helping Cambodians in the post-war time, stressing that it was different from debts Cambodia owed to other countries which had brought wars and paved the way for Khmer Rouge to take over the country.

However, he expressed hope that the debt issue will be resolved in the future.  

“Deputy Prime Minister requested [the Russian side] to resolve the issue of debt based on the principle of longstanding and close friendship as well as tolerance between the two governments and peoples,” the statement said.  

Cambodia has repeatedly asked the Russian government for a debt relief, but the issue has remained unsettled.

However, in November 2019 during a meeting on the sidelines of the Southeast Asian Nations Association (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev agreed to convert some of the debt into development assistance.

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