Decade-old BRI Gives Extra Boost to Sino-Cambodian Ties: Experts

This aerial photo taken on Oct. 28, 2022 shows the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville (PPSHV) Expressway in Kampong Speu Province, Cambodia. Photo: PPSHV Expressway/Handout via Xinhua

PHNOM PENH -- The decade-old Belt and Road Initiative has given an extra boost to China-Cambodia ties, providing tremendous benefits to Cambodia's socio-economic development and poverty alleviation, experts said on Thursday.

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, an arm of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the historic bond of friendship between Cambodia and China has grown from strength to strength and evolved into an ironclad friendship.

He said the 65-year-old bilateral ties were built on the foundation of a profound political trust and boosted by a deep sense of mutual respect of each other's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs.

Phea said the BRI, which was initiated by China in 2013, has added vigorous momentum to this relationship, bringing enormous benefits for Cambodia and enabling the kingdom to pursue its own development path that is suitable to its national characteristics.

He said flagship BRI projects such as hydropower plants, roads and bridges, the Sihanoukville Special Economy Zone, the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway and the Siem Reap Angkor International Airport have greatly contributed to boosting socio-economic development and improving people's livelihoods in Cambodia.

"BRI has helped attract Chinese-invested mega-projects for Cambodia's physical infrastructure development, which is the backbone for the country's economic growth and national development," he told Xinhua.

Moreover, under the BRI, China had assisted Cambodia to construct the Morodok Techo National Stadium, the Cambodia-China Friendship Tboung Khmum Hospital, and the China-aided medical building at the Cambodia-China Friendship Preah Kossamak Hospital.

"These outstanding achievements have greatly contributed to the socio-economic development of Cambodia and the well-being of the Cambodian people," he said.

Neak Chandarith, director of the Cambodia 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Research Center, said the BRI has brought forth infrastructure development projects that have improved transportation networks, attracted foreign investment and boosted trade.

"These developments have the potential to spur economic diversification, create jobs, and alleviate poverty, empowering communities and improving the quality of life for millions of people," he told Xinhua.

"Thanks to the BRI, Cambodia has also seen the establishment of two significant airports: the Siem Reap Angkor International Airport and the new Phnom Penh International Airport. Additionally, the creation of special economic zones is transforming the economic landscape of the country," he added.

Chandarith said the BRI has also promoted green development, digital innovation, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, education and tourism.

Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said the BRI has significantly changed infrastructure conditions and supported green development in Cambodia and in other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

He said the development of the 400-megawatt Lower Sesan II Hydropower Station in northeast Cambodia's Stung Treng province stood as a good example of BRI projects, which laid a focus on clean and green development, with environmental protection.

"I observe that this project has built a 2,900-meter-long nature-like fishway," he told Xinhua. "This fishway is vital to better facilitate fish migration and to maintain the diversity of fish in the area."

Seun Sam, a policy analyst at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the BRI has had a huge impact on Cambodia, injecting strong vitality into the country's development of infrastructure, trade and economy.

"BRI's landmark projects have vastly improved Cambodia's connectivity with the region, facilitating trade and attracting foreign direct investment, while boosting Cambodia's economic growth and creating job opportunities for local people," he told Xinhua.

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