Hun Sen Quashes Plans for a Trade Office With Taiwan

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Friday he will block the establishment of a Taiwanese trade office in Cambodia because of the government’s rigid observance of the One-China policy, despite business leaders calling for more practical steps to boost investment from Taiwan.

Taiwanese media reported this week that the Taiwan External Trade Development Council would open a trade office in Phnom Penh next month, a move local business representatives said would boost the country’s economy.

But speaking at a Council of Ministers meeting Friday, Mr. Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get local newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea to correct a front-page article lifted from Taiwanese news website Taipei Times, which said the Cambodian government had approved the plans.

“This story is very sensitive for Cambodia’s foreign affairs policy which implemented the One-China policy a long time ago,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

The prime minister, who in 1997 shut down the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office over what he claimed was Taiwanese funding of Funcinpec in that year’s factional fighting, reiterated the government’s policy of prohibiting official Taiwanese representation in Cambodia.

“Firstly, [it] is our official policy not to allow Taiwan to have offices in Cambodia in any circumstances. Secondly, we do not authorize any [Taiwanese] national ceremonies or the raising of the flag of Taiwan on Cambodia’s land, even in hotels or any other places,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

“We especially do not allow this as Taiwan is just one province of China,” he added.

Nguon Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, declined to comment on political matters but said a trade center would be a valuable trade tool.

“Many Taiwanese companies go to invest in Vietnam and it brings in a lot of money, but Cambodia does not receive as much [investment] from Taiwan, that’s why I suggested to the government to have a trade center with Taiwan,” he said.

Mr. Tech said the Taiwan trade council told him they had attracted $32 billion of investment in Vietnam, and he estimated Cambodia could reap $10 billion or more from Taiwan “if we have good rules and regulations.”

Larry Kao, vice-chairman of the Taiwanese Commercial Association of Cambodia, estimated there are currently 5,000 or 6,000 Taiwanese-owned firms operating in Cambodia, adding that a trade office would attract further investment.

“I hope this can be established without any problems but it has to be done carefully because the Chinese Embassy may have objections, because anything to do with Taiwan they object,” he said.

Mr. Kao said Cambodia’s strict adherence to the One-China policy had not had a negative impact on investment coming from Taiwan.

“They only decide to invest because of the business environment,” he said.

“The political situation is one of the concerns but relations between Taiwan and Cambodia have been [the same] for a very long time and they don’t expect it to change any time soon.”

Chinese Embassy spokesman Cheng Hong Bo said he was “not at liberty to comment on this.”

“But I think the Cambodian government has very clearly stated their position on this issue,” he said.

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