Medvedev Concludes State Visit; Cold War Debt Discussed

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev concluded a three-day state visit to Cambodia on Tuesday, a trip that culminated with the signing of a number of agreements between the two countries and their respective ruling parties.

On the final day of the visit, Prime Minister Hun Sen hosted Mr. Medvedev at his office building in Phnom Penh, where the Russian prime minister was greeted by a military honor guard and band, as well as a retinue of government ministers and foreign diplomats.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, share a laugh during a signing ceremony at Mr Hun Sen's office building in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, share a laugh during a signing ceremony at Mr Hun Sen’s office building in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Just before lunch, 10 agreements were signed by a succession of senior Cambodian officials and their Russian counterparts, as Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Medvedev looked on and quietly exchanged words.

The memorandums of understanding covered a range of issues, including foreign investment, public health care, fine arts and nuclear energy. The officials also signed pacts on air transport, money laundering, terrorist financing and state-owned media.

The last of the agreements, signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, outlined an “exchange program” for members of the CPP and ruling United Russia, according to CPP spokesman Sok Eysan. Mr. Medvedev succeeded Russian President Vladimir Putin as chairman of the party in May 2012.

Mr. Eysan said on Monday that the inter-party agreement would give young CPP members the opportunity to learn about the political trade from members of United Russia, and vice versa.

“It relates mainly to training in human resources—especially the new generation of the party—and the understanding of general party management, like how to do activities at the local level,” he said. “For example, like…grassroots communication, and how to build a local base.”

“The training will be for three months, six months, one year or more, according to the courses organized in Russia,” he added.

While United Russia has faced frequent accusations of corruption at home—leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny has labeled it “the party of crooks and thieves”—Mr. Eysan said such claims were of no concern to the CPP.

“The CPP, by habit, does not put its hand into the internal matters of others,” he said.

Ahead of the signing ceremony, Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Medvedev met privately over several subjects, including Cambodia’s Cold War-era debt to Russia, according to Eang Sophalleth, the prime minister’s personal assistant.

In the decade after the Khmer Rouge was toppled in 1979, Cambodia accumulated a $1.5 billion debt load from what was then the Soviet Union. Forgiveness of the debt has since been a regular talking point between the two countries.

While declining to provide hard figures for the debt totals discussed by Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Medvedev on Tuesday, Mr. Sophalleth described the hourlong talk as “very positive.”

“Regarding debt, both parties agreed to discuss the possibilities that are acceptable for both sides,” he said without elaborating.

Mr. Sophalleth added that Mr. Hun Sen also requested increased investment from Russia in an effort to boost Cambodia’s garment, agriculture and tourism sectors.

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