Japan Foreign Minister  Set to Discuss Trade and Regional Issues while in Cambodia this Weekend

Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi arrives at a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State and South Korea's Foreign Minister during the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 15, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
  • Phoung Vantha and Torn Chanritheara
  • August 21, 2020 11:28 AM

Efforts made for talks to include Cambodia’s handling of human rights will fail, a Cambodian government spokesman says, alluding to an NGO’s request

PHNOM PENH--Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu said on Aug. 21 that Japan is committed to assisting Cambodia as the country develops with the support of its young population.

"Japan will continue to provide support so that Cambodia can walk the path of its democratic development by incorporating youth strength as a pillar [to help the country grow]," he said.

In a message sent ahead of his arrival in Cambodia set for Friday evening (Aug. 21) for a two-day official visit, Motegi also spoke of the support that Japan provided to help the country rebuild following the decades of war of the 1970s and 1980s.

As Japan became one of Cambodia’s biggest donors contributing to the country’s reconstruction from the 1990s on, bilateral trade also expanded and, Motegi said, has now reached $230 million with 388 Japanese companies operating in the country.   

Speaking of the pandemic, Motegi commended Cambodia for the measures the country took to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the cooperation of people in the country.

Motegi pointed out that, to assist the government’s efforts to deal with COVID-19, Japan has contributed technical assistance and medical equipment as well as financial support for the renovation of the Siem Reap Provincial Referral Hospital.

"Those actions on COVID-19 measures also strengthened relations between the two countries,” he said. “To further strengthen this relationship, we will continue discussions with the Royal Government of Cambodia to reopen people-to-people exchanges in the business sector in a manner appropriate for preventing the re-emergence of COVID-19."

Motegi, who is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon during his visit, is expected to raise the issue of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea and the international conflict this has triggered.    

While human rights are not on the agenda during Motegi’s visit, the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Japanese foreign minister to ask the Cambodian government to stop intimidation against union leaders, rights activists, opposition members and journalists, and to request the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

In a statement released on Aug. 19, HRW said that Cambodia is facing a human rights crisis and that the Cambodian government continues to target activists, independent media, and members of the former opposition party Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in an effort to silence critical and independent voices in the country.

“The government has adopted abusive laws—including three rounds of amendments to the Law on Political Parties, as well as the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO), and the Law on Trade Unions—that severely suppress the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” the HRW statement read.

However, Chin Malin, spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice, said that the call on the Japanese foreign minister to raise human rights issues during his visit is doomed to fail.

“Any attempt by any group to ask Japan to put pressure and interfere in the internal affairs of Cambodia, a sovereign state, will surely suffer a disgraceful failure,” said Malin, who also serves as vice president of the government’s human rights committee, in a Facebook post on Aug. 20 without mentioning the HRW statement.  

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