On 13th May 2021, H.E. Dr. Devyani Khobragade, Ambassador of India to Cambodia met H.E. Mr. Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce, Royal Government of Cambodia (MOC) to discuss, inter alia, the temporary ban on frozen buffalo meat and other meat products from India and other issues of mutual interest, including starting negotiations for entering into a Free Trade Agreement between India and Cambodia.
On the issue of a temporary ban on buffalo meat from India, Dr. Khobragade conveyed that India has already taken measures as per WHO’s guidelines for maintaining high personal hygiene standards as a means of containing and stopping transmission of Covid-19 virus in these plants. WHO, FAO, International Meat Secretariat, Paris and World Organisation for Animal Health (OEI), USFDA, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs), and other well known international organizations have clearly said that there is no scientific evidence currently to prove that COVID-19 spreads through food and food packaging. It was also stressed that India is exporting bovine meat uninterruptedly to more than 70 countries even during the COVID-19 without any issues so far.
Pasteur Institute of Cambodia had already tested 105 samples of frozen buffalo meat already arrived in Cambodia and certified all of them to be COVID-19-negative.
H.E. Pan Sorasak conveyed that the temporary ban was imposed as a measure to prevent the entry and spread of the new B1617 variant, which is reportedly more severe and also taking into consideration the health-related concerns of Cambodia, which has already suffered due to the February 20 Community Event resulting in lockdowns, inter-provincial travel ban, and other restrictive measures.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has already set up an Adhoc Commission headed by the Director-General of Customs & Excise to look into this issue and give its recommendations on the way forward. He expressed hope that the Adhoc Commission will try to resolve the issue and adopt measures, which can satisfy both countries’ concerns.
During the meeting, India and Cambodia have also discussed the course of action that is required to be taken to take the trade relationship forward, including exchange of Diplomatic Notes on Terms of Reference (ToR) for the India-Cambodia Joint Working Group on Trade and Investment and Terms of Reference (ToR) for establishment and rules of procedure for the Trade Negotiating Committee to carry out negotiations for the proposal Preferential Trade Agreement.
On May 14, 2021, H.E. Dr. Devyani Khobragade visited Kep province and met provincial authorities. During her visit, Ambassador Khobragade also visited the Kep Dam, pepper plantation farms, and the site of the proposed ASEAN Highway. The provincial officials briefed her about the development priorities of the province. Provincial officials also expressed their desire to submit a proposal to the Indian Embassy to develop the dam into an eco-tourism destination. This project is expected to improve local livelihoods and expand tourism potential in Kep. In addition, provincial officials also requested the Embassy to provide training courses to improve the capacity building of their officials in tourism development.
On May 15, 2021, H.E Dr. Devyani Khobragade visited Kampot and met H.E Mr. Ney Kong, Deputy Governor of Kep Province, and his team including Mr. Soy Sinol, Director of Kep Tourism Department, and Mr. Pov Ratanak, Deputy Director of Kep Cultural Department. They accompanied her to Phnom Chgnork, a Hindu cave temple located in Bos Trabek Village, Trapeang Pring Commune, Teuk Chhou District, Kampot Province. The temple was built in the 7th century in the Funan era, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Since India is closely involved with the restoration of various temples in Cambodia, including Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and Preah Vihear Temple, the provincial officials have requested the Government of India to consider the possibility of restoration of the Phnom Chhnok temple. Given the bad road conditions, they have also requested a road project leading from the temple to the main road under the Quick Impact Project Scheme.
Source: India in Cambodia (Embassy of India, Phnom Penh)