PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Two of Southeast Asia’s newest national leaders, both in office for just over a month, exchanged congratulations Thursday as Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin paid a one-day official visit to Cambodia for talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet.
Although there are currently no major issues of contention between the two nations, the visit touched on one of the region’s highest profile problems, the proliferation of cybercrime, particularly online scam operations that include false romance ploys, bogus investment pitches and illegal gambling schemes.
Human trafficking is also often involved, as many of those forced to carry out the scams have been lured by criminal gangs with fake job offers and then forced to work in conditions of virtual slavery. Cambodia and Myanmar are two centers for such crime, although there have been efforts to crack down.
Srettha and Hun Manet remotely attended the inauguration of a new center for victims of trafficking in Cambodia’s border town of Poipet, for which Thailand contributed more than $2.3 million. The center, Cambodia’s first, is set to provide rehabilitation services for trafficking victims, including mental health counseling and job skills training.
The ceremony came after what Hun Manet, on his channel on the Telegram social media platform, described as close, friendly and critical discussions held in the capital Phnom Penh on bilateral issues concerning trade, investment, tourism, education, air, rail and road links, immigration and transnational crime.
Srettha, 61, took office on Aug. 22 after a May general election. Hun Manet, 45, became prime minister the same day, after Cambodia’s election in July. Srettha succeeded forner army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha, who assumed power after staging a military coup in 2014, and was returned as prime minister after a 2019 general election. Hun Manet succeeds his 71-year-old father Hun Sen, who was Cambodia’s leader for 38 years of generally autocratic rule.
Srettha also paid a courtesy call on Hun Sen, who has said he will continue to hold influence over national affairs, and was later hosted by him at a dinner.
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