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Where the Prince of Cambodia went on his first visit to Russia

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© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

Prince of Cambodia Ravichak Norodom paid a working visit to Empress Catherine II Saint Petersburg Mining University. The main topic of his meeting with Rector Vladimir Litvinenko was the search for mutually beneficial areas of partnership between our countries. First of all, it is about co-operation in such spheres as science, education and culture.

As the distinguished guest noted during his acquaintance with the first technical university of Russia, the form of government in Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy, which was restored in 1991. The economy of the Kingdom is based on light industry, primarily tailoring, and tourism, but Phnom Penh associates its prospects not only with these industries, but also with the development of the mineral sector. The fact is that hydrocarbon deposits have been found on the shelf of the Gulf of Thailand, but their development is hampered by the lack of technology and competent personnel.

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© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

One of the reasons for this state of affairs is the tragic history of Kampuchea, as this Asian nation was formerly known. The turmoil began in 1970, when the Americans overthrew Sihanouk Norodom, a man of royal blood who gave up the throne in order to take the elected post of prime minister. However, putschist General Lon Nol did not last long in power, just five years, and was overthrown by the Khmer Rouge led by the infamous Pol Pot.

Under his leadership, the country began to build "a new society based on equality and non-exploitation, where there are no rich and no poor". The practical realisation of this concept was based on principles far removed from the ideas of humanism. In particular, almost immediately after seizing power, the Communists declared their goal to be "agrarian socialism" and evicted all residents from the cities, giving them only 72 hours to pack up. Given that Phnom Penh was then home to about two and a half million people, this decision turned into a social catastrophe.

The worst-case scenario was that peasants were given only a small portion of rice for any work of at least 12 hours a day, which was not enough to sustain themselves. Any positive motivation was out of the question, all plans to grow crops were fulfilled only on pain of death, and shootings were not uncommon, as this form of punishment for any offence was very common. As a result, the four years of Khmer Rouge rule were recognised as a genocide of their own people.

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© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

"Unfortunately, during this time, almost the entire colour of our nation, the entire intelligentsia, including the technical intelligentsia, was destroyed, except for those of its representatives who managed to flee the country. And today we are facing a huge shortage of qualified engineers, which is certainly holding back our progress," said Ravicak Norodom.

The prince himself was born in China, in exile, where his family fled the Pol Pot regime. So frosts are not a novelty for him, he has already had to deal with sub-zero temperatures. But this is the first time he has come to Russia. He had never seen St. Petersburg before, but he was very impressed.

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© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

"I studied and lived in France for many years, so I have a lot to compare it with. Obviously, St. Petersburg is a big European city with wonderful architecture. I can say the same about Mining University. Its historical building, where the museum is located, is simply magnificent," His Highness shared his impressions.

During the meeting with Rector Vladimir Litvinenko, he said that after the restoration of the monarchy, his grandfather - the legendary Sihanouk Norodom - ascended the throne in Cambodia. All his life he paid great attention to the development of co-operation with the USSR and Russia, but the nineties were not the best period to hope for a productive partnership with our country. After all, it was experiencing enormous economic and social problems.

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© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

"Today, my uncle Siamoni Norodom is at the head of our state. On his instructions, I am engaged in attracting investments into the economy and social sphere of the country. One of the most promising areas, in my opinion, is the search for and development of hydrocarbon deposits on our shelf. At the moment we import 100% of them, but we are convinced that by changing the situation in the field of raw materials extraction we will be able to intensify the development of Cambodia. I am sure that the experience of Russian oil workers and the traditions of friendship between our peoples, laid down by my grandfather, will help us to cope with this task," the prince expressed his hope.

Vladimir Litvinenko fully agreed with the guest, but reminded him that there are many pitfalls on the way from agrarian to industrial economy. One of them is the so-called concessions under which Western transnational corporations operate in the vast majority of African and Asian countries. In essence, these are lease agreements that imply minimum fixed payments to national governments, regardless of the volume of resources realised.

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© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

"The subsoil use should be based on a clear government policy that will allow both the mining company, which invests huge amounts of money in a rather risky business, and Cambodia itself to benefit from co-operation. Speaking about the Russian experience, I can say with 100% certainty that it was Vladimir Putin's decision to abandon production sharing agreements and switch to subsoil use licences that was one of the key reasons for the sharp economic growth in our country at the beginning of the century. After all, this form of partnership implies both one-off and regular payments charged per unit of minerals extracted. Another most important detail is the right of ownership of geological information obtained in the course of prospecting and exploration of natural resources. It should undoubtedly remain in the country and not flow to the headquarters of corporations located in London, Paris or other Western cities," emphasised Vladimir Litvinenko.

He also urged the distinguished guest to move away from the two-tier system of higher education, which sets as its main task the humanisation of society. It is obvious that in case of intensification of fossil fuel extraction on the Cambodian shelf, Phnom Penh will need engineers, not bachelors, and it is necessary to start their training today.

At the end of the meeting, the parties discussed a number of specific, most promising projects and agreed to return to their discussion after thoroughly working out the relevant roadmaps

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© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов
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© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов
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© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов
принц
© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов