What Did Suu Kyi’s First Cambodia Visit Achieve?

A look at a significant development within Cambodia-Myanmar relations.

What Did Suu Kyi’s First Cambodia Visit Achieve?
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Last week, Myanmar’s de facto leader and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi paid her first visit to Cambodia in her current capacity. The trip spotlighted the ongoing state of ties between the two fellow Southeast Asian states amid wider domestic and foreign policy developments.

Cambodia and Myanmar, two fellow Southeast Asian states, have had contemporary diplomatic ties that date back to 1955, and despite challenges in their relationship, both sides have nonetheless attempted to advance them where possible. With 2020 marking the 65th anniversary of the relationship between the two countries, both sides have been looking at ways to commemorate the milestone in their ties.

Last week, the state of the relationship was in the headlines again with Suu Kyi’s visit to Cambodia. The visit, which was part of a two-country visit that also included China to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum, was her first to Cambodia since she was installed as de facto leader of Myanmar following an election victory by her National League for Democracy (NLD), putting the Southeast Asian state back to civilian control following decades of military rule.

Suu Kyi’s visit to Cambodia, which began on April 29 and lasted three days, consisted of a series of interactions. In terms of meetings, she and her delegation met with a range of Cambodian senior officials including Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Say Chhum, and National Assembly President Heng Samrin. She also paid a courtesy call on Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and a trip to Angkor Wat in Siam Reap.

Per the official Cambodian account of the meeting between Suu Kyi and Hun Sen, both sides reviewed the existing state of ties, discussed issues of mutual interest, and also talked about areas of ties that could be further advanced. Some of the areas where they discussed making more progress on collaboration included the strengthening economic cooperation and boosting cultural, religious, and educational ties. According to a summary of the meeting posted on Hun Sen’s Facebook page, both sides had discussed issues including promoting student exchanges and scholarships and reviewing double taxation.

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To be sure, Suu Kyi’s Cambodia visit did not receive nearly as much attention as her stop to China relatively speaking. Nonetheless, as both sides continue to prepare for the commemoration of their anniversary next year, with Hun Sen indicating that there will be joint organization of activities in certain areas in both countries, and as the two countries experience other changes in their foreign and domestic policies – with Myanmar expected to have an election next year and questions remaining about a succession dynamics in Cambodia and a post-Hun Sen future – the relationship will continue to be important to watch for the rest of 2019 and into 2020.