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Strengthening Ties Between Cambodia and Singapore: A New Era of Bilateral Relations

by Samheng Boros
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The recent visit of Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Moha Borvor Thipadei Hun Manet to Singapore from June 18-19, 2024, marks a significant milestone in the deepening of bilateral ties between Cambodia and Singapore. This visit underscores the enduring commitment of both nations to explore new avenues for cooperation and mutual benefit, building on a rich history of collaboration.

Historical Context and Foundation of Bilateral Relations

The diplomatic relationship between Cambodia and Singapore began on August 10, 1965, with Cambodia being one of the first countries to recognize Singapore’s independence. Despite a temporary hiatus in diplomatic ties from 1975 to 1992, the two nations maintained economic connections, with Singapore providing crucial support during Cambodia’s reconstruction phase in the 1980s. This period of collaboration laid a strong foundation for future cooperation, with both countries benefiting from mutual trade and investment.

The resumption of diplomatic relations in 1992 marked the beginning of a new era of partnership, characterized by frequent high-level exchanges and collaborative initiatives. His Majesty King-Father Norodom Sihanouk and His Excellency Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew played pivotal roles in shaping this relationship, fostering a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect that continues to this day.

Contributions of Former Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen

The relationship between Cambodia and Singapore has been significantly strengthened by the efforts of former Prime Minister and current President of the Senate of Cambodia, Samdech Hun Sen. His official visits to Singapore in 2000 and 2010 were landmark events that led to the promotion of Singaporean foreign direct investment in Cambodia, enhancement of human resource development, and provision of a Tourism Development Master Plan for the Cambodian government. These initiatives were pivotal in fostering economic growth and stability in Cambodia.

Samdech Hun Sen’s commitment to strengthening Cambodia’s international relations laid the groundwork for the current robust partnership with Singapore. His efforts in encouraging foreign investment and promoting economic development have had lasting impacts, contributing to the strong bilateral ties we see today.

Fruitful Outcomes of Prime Minister Samdech Moha Borvor Thipadei Hun Manet’s Visit

During his two-day official visit to Singapore, Prime Minister Samdech Moha Borvor Thipadei Hun Manet engaged in several high-level discussions with Singaporean leaders, including President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, and Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The discussions covered a wide range of topics, including political-security, defense, trade and investment, finance, food and energy security, climate change, tourism, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), digitalization, and people-to-people exchanges.

One of the highlights of the visit was the agreement to convene the 2nd Political Consultation between the Foreign Ministries of both countries. This initiative aims to strengthen cooperation in combatting transnational crimes such as cyber scams, fake news, and drug trafficking. Additionally, both nations expressed a commitment to maintaining frequent exchanges of visits between defense officials and sharing best practices.

On the economic front, Singapore continues to be one of the largest investors in Cambodia, with significant investments in key sectors such as real estate, energy, agri-business, education, and finance. The two Prime Ministers agreed to encourage public and private entities to identify potential areas for win-win cooperation, starting with food production and supplies. The increase in direct flights to 50 per week between Cambodia and Singapore and the growing number of travelers further emphasize the robust people-to-people exchanges.

In the area of education, Prime Minister Lawrence Wong pledged to offer more customized capacity-building support to Cambodia, including training of trainers in TVET. Prime Minister Samdech Moha Borvor Thipadei Hun Manet expressed gratitude for Singapore’s support in Cambodia’s human capital development.

Cooperation in Energy and Climate Change

The two leaders applauded the successful first working group meeting, co-chaired by the Energy Ministers of Cambodia, Singapore, and the Lao PDR, to facilitate cross-border electricity trade. This initiative is part of the broader vision to develop the ASEAN Power Grid, enhancing energy resilience and security for the region. The progress on carbon credit cooperation, in line with Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, was also noted, with both leaders looking forward to the early signing of the implementation agreement.

Digital and Financial Transparency Initiatives

The official launch of the Financial Transparency Corridor initiative by the National Bank of Cambodia and the Monetary Authority of Singapore marks another significant milestone in bilateral relations. This initiative aims to establish digital infrastructures to facilitate trade and financial access for SMEs in both countries. Additionally, the signing of the MoU on Cooperation in Digital Government between the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications of Cambodia and the Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore underscores the growing importance of ICT and digital technology cooperation.

Private Sector Engagement

Prime Minister Samdech Moha Borvor Thipadei Hun Manet addressed the Cambodia-Singapore Business Forum, encouraging participants to explore business opportunities in Cambodia and pursue joint investments. His visit also included tours of Nanyang Polytechnic and Centre of Innovation for Electronics & Internet of Things, and Keppel’s Infrastructure@Changi building. The naming of a new orchid hybrid, “Vanchoanthe HUN Manet,” at the National Orchid Garden in his honor symbolizes the flourishing friendship between the two nations.

Looking Ahead

The visit concluded with both leaders reaffirming their commitment to further deepen and expand the scope of bilateral cooperation. Singapore’s investments in Cambodia span a range of sectors, reflecting the growing economic interdependence between the two nations. The shared vision of an integrated ASEAN Power Grid and ongoing initiatives in renewable energy and carbon credits exemplify the forward-looking nature of this partnership.

Prime Minister Samdech Moha Borvor Thipadei Hun Manet’s visit to Singapore has not only reinforced the strong bilateral ties but also opened new avenues for cooperation, ensuring that the relationship between Cambodia and Singapore continues to thrive in the years to come.

The recent visit of Prime Minister Samdech Moha Borvor Thipadei Hun Manet to Singapore has set the stage for a new era of bilateral relations, characterized by mutual respect, shared goals, and a commitment to regional stability and prosperity. As Cambodia and Singapore celebrate their rich history of collaboration, the future looks bright with endless possibilities for deeper cooperation and mutual benefit.

About the Author: H.E. Samheng Boros, an inspiring Minister attached to the Prime Minister, is a passionate advocate for youth empowerment. With a deep admiration for sports, education technology, and innovation, he serves as the honorary president of The Better Cambodia, leading positive change and fostering a brighter future for the nation.

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