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Cambodia’s prime minister visits Vietnam to sign deals on trade and science

Vietnamese prime minister Pham Minh Chinh, left, and Cambodian prime minister Hun Manet inspect an honour guard in Hanoi (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)
Vietnamese prime minister Pham Minh Chinh, left, and Cambodian prime minister Hun Manet inspect an honour guard in Hanoi (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

Cambodian prime minister Hun Manet met with his Vietnamese counterpart on Monday on an official visit to boost relations between the neighbouring Southeast Asian countries that are close but historically complicated.

Vietnam’s prime minister, Pham Minh Chinh, and Hun Manet attended a welcome ceremony in the capital, Hanoi, where they reviewed an honour guard before holding talks that Cambodian officials had said would cover co-operation in the fields of education, trade, security, defence and border affairs, among others.

The two leaders also witnessed the signing of several agreements on co-operation in trade and science.

Two-way trade between Vietnam and Cambodia totalled 10.57 billion US dollars in 2022 and 7.1 billion dollars in the first 10 months of 2023, with a projection to reach 9.0 billion dollars by the end of the year, according to the state Vietnam News Agency.

Vietnam Cambodia
Vietnamese prime minister Pham Minh Chinh, left, and Cambodian prime minister Hun Manet, right, look at photos in Hanoi (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

Vietnam is Cambodia’s third-largest trading partner.

Hun Manet was also scheduled to meet with Nguyen Phu Trong, who as general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam is the country’s top leader; Vo Van Thuong, the president; and Vuong Dinh Hue, the national assembly chief.

It is Hun Manet’s first visit to Vietnam since he became prime minister in August, succeeding his father, Hun Sen, who maintained close relations with Vietnam’s communist leadership during his 38 years in power.

Many Cambodians, however, harbour a traditional hostility toward bigger and richer Vietnam, which they suspect of seeking to annex Cambodian territory.

Some Cambodian politicians highlight the issue, and prejudice against ethnic Vietnamese residents is not rare.

Hun Manet’s father, Hun Sen, was installed as prime minister in 1985 by a Vietnamese occupying force that had invaded Cambodia to oust the communist Khmer Rouge from power in 1979.

The extremist policies of the Khmer Rouge are held responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians through starvation, overwork and execution.

Hun Manet in 1999 became the first Cambodian to graduate from the US Military Academy at West Point.

Before becoming prime minister, he was commander of Cambodia’s army.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is scheduled to make a state visit to Vietnam on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It was not announced if he would also meet Hun Manet, whose own visit extends until Tuesday.