Cambodia country brief
Australia and Cambodia established diplomatic relations in 1952. Our strong support for the Cambodian Peace Process in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including our leading role in the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC, 1992-1993), is still appreciated by the Cambodian people.
Australia’s approach to our bilateral relationship with Cambodia enables us to engage on issues of bilateral, regional and strategic importance, and support improvements that benefit Cambodian people.
Australia and Cambodia work together on a range of common strategic interests in regional and global fora. We are co-members of the East Asia Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Regional Forum, and Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). Australia maintains a strong commitment to Cambodia's development.
The Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh closely monitors political developments and the human rights situation in Cambodia, and raises issues of concern directly with the Cambodian Government. Multilaterally, Australia has made statements about Cambodia in the UN Human Rights Council and during Cambodia’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in January 2019. Australia’s statement is available on the UPR page.
Defence and security
Australia and Cambodia work closely together to combat people smuggling and trafficking, irregular migration, child sex tourism, narcotics trafficking, fraud and terrorism. An Australian Federal Police liaison office in Phnom Penh cooperates with and assists Cambodian law enforcement agencies to deal with transnational crime.
Since 2018, the Anti-Money Laundering Assistance Team in Australia’s Department of Home Affairs and the Attorney General’s Department have equipped Cambodian officials with the skills to develop new laws and policies to address transnational crime. This supported Cambodia to develop new laws to more effectively share evidence internationally to prosecute transnational crime and to combat the financing of weapons of mass destruction.
Australia’s modest defence cooperation program aims to assist Cambodia to develop a modern, outward-looking defence force that contributes to regional security and stability. Key focus areas for our defence engagement include training and education, maritime security, and organisational reform to support the professionalisation of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
People to people links
People to people links between Australia and Cambodia are an important aspect of our relationship. Our links are forged through education, tourism and culture. There are over 66,000 people of Cambodian origin living in Australia (2016 Census). Cambodian refugees began arriving in Australia after the Khmer Rouge regime gained power in 1975, with numbers peaking in the 1980s.
Approximately 6,000-7,000 Australians reside in Cambodia, most being dual Cambodian-Australian citizens or expatriates involved in development assistance work or business.
Since 2014, more than 1,900 Australian students have studied and undertaken internships in Cambodia under the New Colombo Plan (NCP). The Cambodian Government and the private sector in Cambodia have been supportive of the NCP, including by providing internship opportunities. Cambodian organisations can register with the NCP Internship and Mentorship Network to offer internship opportunities.
Since 1994, more than 850 Cambodians have studied in Australia through the Australia Awards Scholarships Program. In 2019, around 3,000 Cambodians enrolled in Australian education institutions, making us the most popular English-speaking study destination for Cambodian students. More than 17,000 Cambodians have studied in Australia since 2002 - this includes university students, school students, VET, ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students).
Tourism numbers were increasing prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018-19, there were 13,800 short-term visitors from Cambodia to Australia, an increase of 21.4 per cent on the previous year. Approximately 127,430 Australians visited Cambodia in 2018 according to Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism.
Trade and investment relationship
Cambodia has been one of the fastest growing economies in the Indo-Pacific region over the previous decade. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7.3 per cent in 2018. Cambodia’s economy continues to shift from agriculture towards industry but is still concentrated in tourism, garments and construction.
As a least developed country, Cambodia's products are granted tariff-free access to Australia. Cambodia and Australia have a bilateral market access agreement, concluded as part of Cambodia's accession to the WTO in October 2004.
Total two-way trade between Australia and Cambodia was $609 million in 2018, of which bilateral merchandise two-way trade was $239 million. Education related travel services are Australia’s largest export to Cambodia, valued at $126 million (2018). Demand for quality education is increasing in Cambodia. Australian company IDP Education is a leading student placement services provider in Cambodia.
Australia and Cambodia are parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force on 1 January 2010. Australia and Cambodia are also negotiating parties to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce (AusCham) Cambodia was established in 1995 to promote the interests of the Australian business community.
The Australian Government provided an estimated $66 million in total Official Development Assistance to Cambodia in 2019-20. This included an estimated $43.4 million in bilateral funding to Cambodia.
Australia has pivoted our development partnerships to support the COVID-19 response, ongoing regional stability and vulnerable people across Southeast Asia, including in Cambodia. Our aid complements diplomatic and security efforts to address shared challenges including transnational crime, people smuggling and pandemics.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
Australia has also supported the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to investigate and prosecute senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime and those most responsible for atrocities committed between 1975 and 1979. Our support reinforces our commitment to human rights and holding to account those responsible for serious international crimes. From 2004 to 2020 Australia contributed $44.05 million to the ECCC.