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Cambodia never to allow Chinese troops on its soil

PHNOM PENH – Cambodia’s newly proposed Funan Techo Canal, a project under the auspicious of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, aims to connect the national capital to coastal areas to facilitate trade, reduce logistics costs and streamline transport – all the while reducing dependence on Vietnamese ports.

But recent reports have suggested the Beijing-financed, US$1.7 billion channel could also be used as a gateway for Chinese forces, thus threatening the security of neighboring Vietnam and advancing the notion that Cambodia serves as China’s willing proxy.

The reports, citing a research study issued by an institute under the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, suggest the canal could open the way for Chinese military vessels to travel deep into Cambodia via the Gulf of Thailand and toward the Cambodia-Vietnam border.

Although the concern was voiced by non-state Vietnamese actors, the alarm-bell analysis is essentially the Vietnamese state expressing its concern via an unofficial channel to avoid straining official relations with Phnom Penh.

But Cambodian leaders understood well the rub. That is why Cambodia’s former, long-ruling prime minister and current Senate President Hun Sen strongly refuted the idea the canal could be used for Chinese military purposes.

“First and foremost, why does Cambodia need Chinese troops? Second, Cambodia and Vietnam are good neighbors who cooperate in all areas. Third, China and Vietnam have good relations and are comprehensive strategic partners. Finally, why would Cambodia allow Chinese troops into the country if it violated the Constitution?” Hun Sen wrote in a post.

Vietnam’s apprehensions about the project were first aired by Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh