Phnom Penh [Cambodia], December 18 (ANI): Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen hit out at China saying the country is not a dumping ground for Beijing in terms of vaccine trial" adding that the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines will come from the UN-backed COVAX.
"Cambodia is not a dustbin.. and not a place for a vaccine trial," Hun Sen said in blunt terms during a marathon speech on December 15, adding that he will only trust and accept vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), reported Asia Times.
Asia Times cited reports that Cambodia's government has so far collected US$48 million in donations, mostly from wealthy tycoons allied to Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which will go towards the US$200 million needed to purchase inoculations.
The first batch of China's Sinovac vaccines has already been delivered to Indonesia, yet there has been no official comment on whether Beijing will donate doses to its so-called "ironclad friend" Cambodia. This is despite pledges from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in August that mainland Southeast Asian states would be given priority once shots are ready, reported Asia Times.
David Hutt, writing for Asia Times reported that a call for a neutral foreign policy is rising in Cambodia.
Taking note of the schism between the ruling elites and the general masses, he opined that the foreign policy of Cambodia, shaped by political elites is not in line with the majority of the public.
They are fearful of China's economic and strategic influence. Locals accuse Chinese firms of only hiring Chinese workers and engaging in land grabs. They also carp Chinese outprice local in property deals. This is most keenly felt in Sihanoukville, a coastal city and hub for Chinese investment, where locals have complained since 2017 that the city is being turned into a Chinese "colony", reported Asia Times.
Not only the locals but regional neighbours too are wary of Cambodia's foreign policy. The Southeast Asian bloc was furious over Cambodia's 2012 and 2016 insistence to tone down its communique against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, where it claims ownership of territory already claimed by four regional states. It made Phnom Penh the source of frustration amongst its neighbours.
There has even been recent talk that Cambodia and Laos, another close friend of China, should be kicked out of the regional bloc because their foreign policies are overly aligned with Beijing's, reported Asia Times.
"Cambodia needs also to rethink its foreign policy approach...It needs to improve its tarnished international image, in particular, by addressing the widespread perception that it is a Chinese proxy," wrote Kimkong Heng, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, last month. (ANI)