Japan and Cambodia sign aid agreement depsite concerns over democratic governance

Japan and Cambodia sign aid agreement depsite concerns over democratic governance

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono will visit Phnom Penh today, where he is expected to meet with Cambodia’s Prime Minister

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Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono will visit Phnom Penh today, where he is expected to meet with Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and later sign an aid agreement.

The agreement is set to provide Cambodia with some $90 million worth of aid, most of which will go towards infrastructure projects in Phnom Penh. Mr Kono is also set to pledge an additional $78 million to be delivered throughout 2018.

While today’s meeting will focus predominantly on aid, there will be political undertones to Kono’s visit. Indeed, Kono is likely to mention Cambodia’s democratic crisis, which arose after Hun Sen dissolved his government’s opposition, allowing his party to run unopposed in elections set for July this year.

While the west has threatened sanctions to Hun Sen’s manoeuvre, expect Japan to leverage its influence to encourage dialogue with the opposition. The prime minister may just brush off such a suggestion, but diplomatic leverage is a defter solution to Cambodia’s democratic crisis than sanctions, which would only serve to push Phnom Penh closer to Beijing.