Cambodia and Japan signed a grant and loan agreement in early April totaling over $90 million to help improve economic and electricity transmissions projects in Phnom Penh. The agreement covers grants of $4.6 million USD and $86 million USD in Japanese government loans. In a signing ceremony in Phnom Penh, Prak Sopkhonn, Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Minister signed the agreement with Taro Kono, Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Human rights groups in Cambodia and members of opposition political parties had tried to put pressure of Japan to take a strong political stance against the current government and political leaders over human rights concerns. In response, the Japanese government said that its grants and aid were provided to benefit the people of Cambodia and were not tied to current or future political groups and that it will continue to provide grants and aid based upon requests of the Cambodian government and the necessity and viability of projects.
It is estimated that Japan has provided $1.3 billion USD in aid to Cambodia since 1992. Original funding included grants for “demining” and other projects that were remnants of the Pol Pot regime and wars that Cambodia had been involved in. During the last 10-years, Japan’s aid has shifted as Cambodia’s economy has developed and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been the main organization for Japan’s aid.
JICA has three priorities when it comes to aiding Cambodia: the development of human resources, the improvement of the logistics infrastructure and the strengthening of city services. To this end, JICA has focused on supporting infrastructure development, including the development of roads and highways, building new bridges, upgrading existing ports to handle increased capacity, developing an expanded energy grid and upgrading the telecom systems to current international standards.
After the signing ceremony, Taro Kano, Japan’s Foreign Minister met with Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia and said that Japan will help Cambodia become an upper middle-income country by 2030. Based upon the statement from Japanese Foreign Minister Kono, it spears that Cambodia can count on continued Japanese aid and assistance into the foreseeable future.