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Khath Bunthorn


As a small state, Cambodia viewed the ASEAN and China as almost equally important pillars of its foreign policy. Amid the intense strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific, Cambodia faced the dilemma of how to maintain the ASEAN centrality without diplomatic cost to its key ally China, and how to balance its national interest with regional interest. In this context, the article aimed to explain the importance of the ASEAN as a cornerstone of Cambodia’s foreign policy, examine the motivations of Cambodia’s deep political embrace of the Asian giant, and underline its implications for the Indo-Pacific from the lens of small state foreign policy. The article was based on qualitative, empirical analysis that comprises primary and secondary data pertinent to the current topic. The article concluded that Cambodia leaned more towards China than it did towards the ASEAN, thus weakening its centrality in driving the broader regional architecture and that domestic politics was the primary driving force of Cambodia’s foreign policy towards that direction. At this juncture, Cambodia should step back from the present degree of its strategic engagement with China and look for ways to diversify its relations with other major powers while getting back on the democratic path and upholding human rights.


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How to Cite
Bunthorn, K. . (2022). SMALL STATE DILEMMA: CAMBODIA BETWEEN THE ASEAN AND CHINA IN THE INDO-PACIFIC CONTEXT. Journal of Liberty and International Affairs, 8(1), 116-137.
Author Biography

Khath Bunthorn, Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University - New Delhi, India

Khath Bunthorn is a PhD Research Scholar in the Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He obtained MPhil Degree from the same university, and BA (Hons) and MA Degrees in Political Science from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. His research interests include modern politics of Southeast Asia, India and Southeast Asia, foreign policy of small states, and ASEAN, with a particular focus on Cambodia’s foreign policy and politics.