With accusations that a handful of Taiwanese nationals and Cambodian politicians are trying to subvert Cambodia’s “one-China” policy, Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered all civil servants and soldiers not to celebrate Taiwanese National Day.
In an Aug 17 letter to top government officials, Hun Sen warned that a number of “bad Taiwanese people,” together with some Cambodians, were fostering a “two-China policy” by planning a celebration for Taiwan’s national holiday, Oct 10.
Hun Sen said these people have also been trying to make inroads in Cambodia by reopening a Taiwan cultural office.
“Please take all measures to prevent the celebration of a so-called Taiwanese National Day,” Hun Sen told his officials, “and prohibit public servants, officials and armed forces from participating if they are invited to this celebration” in a Taiwanese home.
Sry Thamarong, an international affairs adviser to Hun Sen, said the statement is consistent with Cambodia’s China policy. “We recognize only one China,” he said. “If they are civil servants, they have to respect the policy of the government.”
A Western diplomat said Hun Sen’s remarks were “not a surprising statement to make, if he is serious about having relations with China.”
While Hun Sen has been a steady supporter of “One China,” he has also been quick to accept Taiwanese investment. Since 1994, the government has approved about 150 industrial projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars by Taiwanese companies, according to Cambodian Investment Board figures. Sixty of those projects were approved after the factional fighting of July 1997, which Hun Sen accused Taiwanese of helping to finance.
But Cambodia also enjoys financial support from China. During Hun Sen’s visit to China in February, officials there agreed to give Cambodia more than $220 million in low-interest loans for infrastructure and agriculture.
Sry Thamarong would not say whether or how Hun Sen’s ban on participation in Taiwanese National Day celebrations would be enforced.
In letter to King Norodom Sihanouk, also sent Aug 17, Hun Sen said several Cambodian and Taiwanese politicians have been working to open a Taiwanese representative office in Phnom Penh since it was shut down in July 1997.
“I will advise all ministries and institutions in the towns and provinces not to do illegal things contrary to the clear policy of our government,” Hun Sen wrote.
Sry Thamarong and Sieng Lapresse, a Foreign Affairs Ministry undersecretary of state, said Wednesday that they did not know who the prime minister was targeting when he identified “a number of Cambodian politicians” as colluding with the Taiwanese.
This is not the first time Hun Sen has accused Taiwan of causing trouble in Cambodia.
In late July 1997, Hun Sen said Taiwanese businesses were supplying arms to Funcinpec leading up to factional that erupted earlier that month. The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry denied the claim and Hun Sen did not provide any evidence to support it.
But Hun Sen used the charges to close Taiwan’s representative office, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, saying it was “responsible for terrorism.”
China lauded Hun Sen’s action, which Chinese Embassy officials said supported the “one-China policy.” They had similar praise for his comments this week.
“We appreciate the stance of the Royal Cambodia government and it’s one-China policy,” said Wu Qingsheng, Chinese Embassy first secretary. “We thank the great support of his Majesty and the prime minister for the cause of China reunification.”
China regards Taiwan as a rogue province. Ongoing tensions were heightened in recent weeks when Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui said relations with China should be conducted on a state-to-state basis.
Hun Sen wants Taiwanese trade and investment in Cambodia, but he has been careful to protect his relations with Beijing. Earlier this year Hun Sen said Taiwan’s cultural office in Cambodia would remain closed. “We must respect a nation’s sovereignty,” he told the China Times.
In a television interview Wednesday, Hun Sen said his statements about Taiwan were not a bow to pressures from China or an attempt to curry favor from it.