The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) including Cambodia are greatly benefiting from the China-proposed Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), Cambodian experts said.
Kin Phea, Director General of the International Relations Institute Cambodia (IRIC), an arm of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the BRI has importantly contributed to enhancing economic growth and development in ASEAN as well as in the world at large.
“The BRI is a good connectivity initiative that has been providing tremendous opportunities and benefits to all participating countries,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an international conference on ASEAN.
Phea said the BRI has been helping the 10-member ASEAN strengthen infrastructure connectivity, which is the key element for socio-economic development.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“Through the BRI, ASEAN member states have received many physical infrastructure projects from China such as roads, expressways, railroads, airports, and seaports, among others,” he said.
“The inflows of Chinese investors and tourists to ASEAN have also increased, which have greatly contributed to economic growth, job creations and poverty reduction in the region.”
He said under the BRI, the ASEAN-China ties would continue to grow stronger in the future, particularly in economics, trade, investment, tourism, culture and people-to-people contact.
BRI, a reference to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was initiated by China in 2013 with the aim of building a trade, investment, and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.
So far, 126 Countries and 29 International Organisations have signed up to the initiative. Phea believed that more countries would participate in the initiative.
Ky Sereyvath, Director of the China Study Center of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said in general, ASEAN member states have been benefiting from the BRI.
“For Cambodia, the BRI has importantly contributed to boosting the economic growth through investing in infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, expressways, ports and airports,” he told on the sidelines of the conference.
“It helps improve the country’s transport infrastructure linking between urban and rural areas, so farmers are easier to take their farm products to markets, as tourists are easier to travel from one place to another.”
Ek Tha, permanent Vice Chairman of the Royal Government Spokesperson Unit, said under the framework of the BRI, Cambodia has received more Chinese investors, particularly in the sectors of infrastructure, real estate and construction, agriculture, and tourism.
“At the same time, other ASEAN members can also benefit from the BRI given this region still has room for development in the fields of physical infrastructure, industry, and tourism among others,” he told.
Tha said the BRI has not only brought economic development and growth to ASEAN, but also improved trade and investment thanks to geography, cultural value, and good relations between China and ASEAN.
He said China and ASEAN are important strategic partners in economics, trade, investment and tourism, given the fact that China has the population of about 1.4 billion, and ASEAN has the combined population of more than 600 million.
“The BRI plays a vital role in ASEAN-China relations,” he said. “Just bear in mind that cultural value is a key element in the relations.”