Cambodia, Myanmar Could Face Difficulties In Enhancing Trade, Expert Says

Aung San Suu Kyi in Cambodia
Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi accompanied by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen inspect a honour guard at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 30, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Samrang Pring)

Following Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi's visit to Cambodia, the two countries agreed to enhance trade relations. A diplomatic affairs expert noted that there could be stumbling blocks along the way.

According to VOA Cambodia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen revealed in his social media page that the two country leaders agreed to organize a joint event that should promote tourism between Cambodia and Myanmar.

Suu Kyi's visit marked an important milestone in Myanmar's relations with the country since it was the State Counselor's first trip to Cambodia. For two days, the leaders discussed potential developments in trade.

Hun Sen was said to have offered 10 scholarship grants to Myanmar students so they can study in Cambodia. The Cambodian chief also requested that an exchange program be established to allow for increased cultural relations between the countries.

Regional affairs experts Chheang Vannarith pointed out that while other sectors such as tourism and education were easier to reaffirm during Suu Kyi's visit, trade was a different story.

According to Vannarith, efforts in enhancing trade will be hard for both sides since the two countries share similar export policies. On the other hand, Vannarith stressed that agreements made during Suu Kyi's visit are an important step in spearheading cooperation in the Mekong region.

The Khmer Times reported earlier this week that Cambodia and Myanmar share similar issues involving democracy, politics, and human rights. For Director-General of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia Kin Phea, these similarities should promote an alliance between the countries.

"Official visits are to strengthen cooperation between states. We can help each other when faced with challenges from the international community," Phea said.

Phea added that since Myanmar and Cambodia are faced with criticism from global human rights advocates, the two countries should work together to develop reforms that should address the issues thrown by international critics.

Diplomatic experts suggested that investment and trade relations between Cambodia and Myanmar are still largely weak compared to the former's ties with other ASEAN and Western nations.

On the other hand, increased tourism has been helping boost relations. Last year, statistics revealed that around 22,500 tourists from Myanmar visited Cambodia. The numbers account for an 18 percent increase on an annual basis.

Cambodia-Myanmar relations were first established in 1955 but since then, the exchange has been relatively difficult to implement due to both internal and external stumbling blocks. Both Hun Sen and Suu Kyi expressed interest in continued discussion over enhancing trade between their countries.

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