China promised Cambodia funds for a variety of projects during a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Chinese Prime Minister Li Kequiang during this week’s Asean Summit in Vientiane, a minister attached to Mr. Hun Sen told reporters on Thursday night.
“The Chinese government has agreed to provide aid, first for the irrigation project on Vaiko river, and second for projects on National Road 51,” said Kao Kim Hourn at Phnom Penh International Airport upon returning as part of the prime minister’s envoy.
China also promised additional funds for restoration work of the Preah Vihear temple and pledged to double its import quota of milled Cambodian rice from 100,000 to 200,000 tons per year, he said.
Mr. Kim Hourn declined to specify the amount of money China would give for the various projects.
Chinese largesse to Cambodia has soared in recent years, with observers claiming that Phnom Penh has returned the favor by acting on Beijing’s behalf to prevent Asean from uniting against China’s claims to territory in the South China Sea.
In July, China promised some $600 million to Cambodia, just days after it blocked language in a joint Asean statement referring to a ruling in favor of the Philippines in a case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
This week’s summit skirted any mention of the South China Sea, after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said ahead of the meetings that he would not press the issue.
Mr. Kim Hourn on Thursday reiterated Cambodia’s position—one shared with China—that disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved bilaterally by individual countries and not as a bloc, which would give Asean claimants more clout.
“There’s nothing new,” he said. “The issue of the South China Sea must be divided, between bilateral issues and the issues between Asean and China.”
During a meeting of regional parliamentarians at the summit, Cambodia managed to block discussion of the South China Sea disputes, senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap told reporters upon returning to Phnom Penh on Wednesday.
“We do not have internal interference from other countries and cannot allow any countries to violate Cambodian integrity and territorial sovereignty,” he said, defending Cambodia’s request to keep the South China Sea off the table during a meeting of the Asean Interparliamentary Assembly.
Mr. Yeap noted that Cambodia had unsuccessfully attempted to rally Asean members behind its claim to the Preah Vihear temple during previous disputes with Thailand, but that it was repeatedly told that the matter should be resolved between the two countries.
“Now we take this as an experience,” he said.