– 12 July 2020 marks the 65th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. On this day, we celebrate both the traditional friendship and similarities shared among our two nations.
– 65 years is a short time for interstate relations. However, for Cambodia and Myanmar, our connection could be traced back centuries ago when we were close neighbouring kingdoms. Having survived the test of time and pillage by nature and man for centuries, the two ancient capitals of the Khmer and Bagan Empires, famously known as Angkor and Bagan, stand as a testimony to our past interaction.
– Nowadays, the governments of Cambodia and Myanmar are exploring ways and means to reinvigorate this historical link. The concept of “Angkor – Bagan, Two Ancient Capitals – One Destination” tour in the Joint Action Plan on Tourism Cooperation 2017-2020 between Cambodia and Myanmar has been formulated to support this effort. The authorities concerned are also exploring the possibility to have direct flights between Siem Reap and Bagan. Once realized, this new route will add fresh impetus to economic activities and tourism industry for both countries.
– The second key aspect embedded in our traditional friendship is religion. Despite being multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies, 90% of the population of both countries follow the same faith — Theravada Buddhism. In recent years, many Cambodian Buddhist pilgrims have made their trips to the famous sacred sites of Shwedagon Pagoda and the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. More than 200 Cambodian monks have received scholarships to study at the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University since 1999. Most recently, the first-ever Cambodian pagoda, Kampu-Rangsei, was built in Yangon.
– It is encouraging to see that people-to-people relations continue on a positive trajectory, while Cambodian Community in Myanmar keeps growing in size. The data from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population of Myanmar shows that there are 1,796 Cambodian nationals staying in Myanmar for various business purposes as of January 2020. Cambodian people enjoy living, working and traveling in Myanmar. Many have also settled down with their families while few others are married to Myanmar nationals.
– Our bilateral relationship has enjoyed new momentum as evidenced in the frequent high-level mutual exchange visits. The State Visit of U Htin Kyaw, the then President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, in February 2017 and the visits of Myanmar’s vice presidents to Cambodia in the past few years serve as testimony to this fact. During her official visit to Cambodia in April 2019, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi agreed with Samdech Techo Prime Minister of Cambodia to further deepen and enhance bilateral relations in all areas of cooperation.
– As for Cambodia, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, made three visits to Myanmar – two for the ASEAN Summits in 2014 and one for the CLMV and ACMECS Summits in 2015. In his most recent visit to Myanmar, H.E. PRAK Sokhonn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia co-chaired with H.E. U Kyaw Tin, Union Minister for International Cooperation the 2nd Meeting of the Cambodia-Myanmar Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) on 01 February 2019. During the meeting, they agreed to deepen cooperation in trade and investment, tourism, civil aviation, culture and religion, education, agriculture, forestry, environment and natural resources, finance and banking, and establishment of sister cities.
– In January 2020, General Vong Pisen, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), paid a goodwill visit to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. He met his counter-part, H.E. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services of Myanmar, to discuss ways and means to deepen and enhance military-to-military cooperation between the two countries. In 2017, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing made a similar visit to Cambodia.
– Efforts are also being made in economic cooperation to increase two-way trade from the present modest volume of around USD10 million per annum. Both sides are now in the process of negotiating the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investment and Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation. Once realized, these agreements will encourage more investment flows and unlock economic potential of both countries for greater mutual benefits.
– The two governments have also been supportive in enhancing cooperation between the private sectors and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Over 30 Cambodian businesses are operating in Myanmar, namely in banking, retail, tourism, restaurants and ICT, among others. These businesses help create job opportunities for the local population. The newly established Cambodian Business Association in Myanmar (CBAM) serves as an important business platform to promote and expand Cambodia’s economic activities and investment in Myanmar.
– Increased coordination and cooperation between Cambodia and Myanmar can also be seen at both regional and international platforms such as ASEAN, CLMV, Mekong sub-regional mechanisms and the UN. These mechanisms provide opportunities for Cambodia and Myanmar to strengthen their ties by working more closely together on issues of common interest. Cambodia appreciates the support of Myanmar for its ECOSOC membership in 2019. The 13th ASEM Summit, which will be hosted by Cambodia, will offer another good opportunity for our two countries to work together and in collaboration with other partners from Asia and Europe, to strengthen the “multilateralism for shared growth” which is the theme for the 13th ASEM Summit.
– I must also say that Cambodia-Myanmar relationship is characterized by true friendship both in good and bad times. In 2015, Cambodia contributed a modest amount of USD100,000 for the relief of the victims of widespread flooding and landslides in Myanmar. In 2019, Cambodia made a small contribution of USD90,000 for humanitarian assistance to the Rakhine State. The donation is certainly not large but it reflects our deep sentiment of solidarity.
– As a member of the same ASEAN family, Cambodia recognizes the complex and long-term challenges that Myanmar has to overcome in order to build a harmonious nation. Cambodia has consistently voiced support and stands ready to offer further support for Myanmar’s efforts toward national reconciliation, peace process and its continued pursuit for inclusive socio-economic development.
– To consolidate and elevate our partnership to a new height, both governments have reaffirmed shared resolve to accelerate cooperation in all areas of mutual benefits. These include, among others, trade and investment, culture, religion, education, tourism and connectivity.
– But one important area deserving greater focus is building people-to-people connectivity, especially among youth. This helps nurture greater understanding, closer friendship and long-lasting cooperation among our citizens. Young people are bold and innovative. They have much energy and enthusiasm to engage and contribute limitlessly to the consolidation of the existing friendly relationships between our two nations.
– Finally, on a personal note, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the peoples of Cambodia and Myanmar, especially youth, to make plans to visit each other in order to witness first-hand the rich cultural and historical linkages between our two countries. Having said that, let’s now celebrate the traditional friendship and cherish the many similarities between Cambodia and Myanmar.