Published: 16:10, January 2, 2023 | Updated: 09:32, January 3, 2023
Hun Sen: China's BRI greatly benefits Cambodia, other nations
By Xinhua

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen gives an address during the second Southeast Asian Nations Global Dialogue in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov 13, 2022. (ANUPAM NATH / AP)

KRATIE, Cambodia - Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said here on Monday that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has provided a lot of tangible benefits to his country and other participating countries.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a China-funded river bridge, Hun Sen said the BRI has injected vital impetus into Cambodia's socioeconomic development.

Cambodia and other countries in the region have benefited a lot from the BRI. 

Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Cambodian prime minister

"Cambodia is among the first supporters of the BRI," he said. "Cambodia and other countries in the region have benefited a lot from the BRI."

Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian said 2023 marks the BRI's 10th anniversary, saying that in the last 10 years, China and Cambodia had achieved remarkable results in their pragmatic cooperation under the BRI's framework.

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He said through the initiative, China has supported a number of mega-projects in the development of roads, bridges and power transmission lines, among others.

He pointed out that the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, the flagship project of China-Cambodia cooperation under the BRI, has been making progress steadily.

"A large number of enterprises have settled in the zone, which has created more than 30,000 jobs for locals and contributed to the socioeconomic development in Cambodia," Wang said.

Neak Chandarith, director of the Cambodia 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Research Center, said the BRI projects will be a contributor to the economic growth in Cambodia and in the region in the post-pandemic COVID-19 era.

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"I believe that the BRI projects here will help Cambodia achieve its ambitious goal of becoming an upper-middle income country by 2030 and a high-income country in 2050," he told Xinhua.

"BRI projects such as airports, electric power plants, manufacturing bases, and expressways are crucial for the integration of the Cambodian economy with other economies of the world," Chandarith said.

Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said the BRI is a driving force to continue expanding cooperation among countries in the region and the world at large for the cause of peace, security, prosperity and sustainable development.

"It is becoming the new engine of global economic growth in the post-pandemic era," he told Xinhua.

Besides Cambodia, other Southeast Asian nations such as Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia have also greatly benefited from the BRI, Matthews said.

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"The China-Laos Railway, which connects Kunming in China's Yunnan province with Lao capital Vientiane, is a boon not only for both countries, but also for other Southeast Asian nations," he said.

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, said the BRI has not only brought enormous advantages to all participating countries, but also become a long-term strategy to promote connectivity and cooperation in all fields such as infrastructure, economy, investment, and finance, and to strengthen people-to-people bonds.

"Every country stands to benefit from the BRI, of course at different levels, depending on their participation," he told Xinhua. "Through our observation, we see that the BRI has very positive impact on Cambodian economic growth.”

The BRI, a reference to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was initiated by China in 2013 to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.

China's reopening

Meanwhile, Hun Sen said China's upcoming reopening of its borders will revitalize the kingdom's economy and tourism.

Hun Sen said Cambodia and other countries alike are looking forwards to welcoming Chinese tourists after the world's second largest economy planned to reopen its borders from Jan 8

Hun Sen said Cambodia and other countries alike are looking forwards to welcoming Chinese tourists after the world's second largest economy planned to reopen its borders from Jan 8.

"Cambodia is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Chinese tourists," he said.

He added that the Southeast Asian nation is very pleased to welcome the return of Chinese tourists, saying that their presence is vital to the country's tourism and economic growth.

"When China reopens its borders, flights will increase many times, so we hope to welcome about 2 million Chinese tourists again (in 2023)," Hun Sen said.

READ MORE: Cambodia-China FTA seen providing larger market access

According to the Cambodian leader, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia received 2.36 million Chinese tourists in 2019.

Tourism is one of the four major pillars supporting Cambodia's economy. In the pre-pandemic era, the country registered 6.6 million international tourists in 2019, generating $4.92 billion in revenue that contributed 12.1 percent to its GDP.

Cambodia is famous for its three world heritage sites, namely the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province, the Preah Vihear Temple in Preah Vihear province, and the Sambor Prei Kuk Archaeological Site in Kampong Thom province.

Besides, it has a 450-km pristine coastline stretching across four southwestern provinces.