China’s large-scale investment in Cambodia has won strong support from the Hun Sen government and has benefited some Cambodians as well. However, the influx of Chinese people and money has affected the lives of local people and caused dissatisfaction. People complain that the Chinese drive too fast and drink too much alcohol, that they do not respect Cambodians, and that they do business with Chinese only. NGO’s have put forth the criticism that the Chinese don’t care about human rights, the law, or the environment.
China’s influence has become a major issue for the Cambodian opposition party. Teav Vannol, chairman of the Cambodian opposition Candlelight Party, said that many Cambodians traditionally dislike Vietnamese because of the history of Vietnam’s invasion. Now they are even more unhappy with the Chinese.
China has become Cambodia’s largest investor, donor, and creditor. Many Cambodians worry that China’s “One Belt, One Road” project and the Cambodian government’s growing dependence on Beijing will make the country a vassal of China. Vannol observed, “If you go back to history, King Sihanouk drove out the Americans in 1965 and then China’s Chairman Mao became the big brother. You see what happened next. The war broke out in 1970. In 1975 Pol Pot and the Chinese Communist Party took control of the country, and you saw the destruction of Cambodia. This is my biggest concern. I am worried that history will repeat itself.”
A Cambodian government spokesman said that Cambodia’s constitution, diversity, and the existence of political parties that support the United States have determined that the country will not be completely tied to China. Cambodia must be a neutral and sovereign independent country.
Source: Voice of America, November 6, 2019