Amid deteriorating relations with Western countries due to the government’s suppression of critics, Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to visit Cambodia this month for the first time since taking office, according to a Facebook post by National Police chief Neth Savoeun.
During a meeting on Wednesday morning between General Savoeun and China’s deputy minister of public security, Wang Xiaohong, the Chinese official lauded the strong ties between the two countries and said his trip foreshadowed that of his president.
“Wang Xiaohong stated that the reason he came to Cambodia was to have discussions with relevant institutions in regard to hosting the visit from the president of China, who will visit the Kingdom of Cambodia in October 2016,” the post said.
Gen. Savoeun added that preparations for the president’s visit were already in motion.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials could not be reached for comment, while Chinese Embassy spokesman Cheng Hong Bo said he had “no idea about this visit.”
Cambodia has recently taken a verbal beating from Western countries decrying what is widely seen as a politically motivated legal assault on the opposition CNRP and other critics ahead of local elections next year and national elections in 2018.
During a U.N. Human Rights Council session in Geneva last week, however, China defended Cambodia, with its U.N. representative Wang Ying urging outsiders to leave the country to find “a suitable human rights development model and path.”
This year alone, Beijing has poured at least $600 million in aid into the country, making it by far the largest single donor.
Critics have condemned Cambodia for doing China’s bidding by repeatedly blocking joint Asean statements against its claims to the South China Sea and deporting Taiwanese criminals to the mainland rather than repatriating them.
In a meeting with King Norodom Sihamoni in Beijing in June, Mr. Xi said the two countries “should deepen practical cooperation to achieve mutual benefit and win-win results,” according to a statement from China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Mr. Xi’s last trip to Cambodia was in 2009 as vice president.