Brexit & Cambodia

  • Experts predict little impact for ASEAN after Brexit.
  • Cambodia has its own economical agreements with UK that would gain more meaning in the coming months… it could be of benefit.
  • British tourism could be globally reduced in the coming months due to economical upheaval in UK after Brexit. Between January and February 2015, Cambodia welcomed 30,000 British tourists. 

Still too early to evaluate how the Brexit will affect the Cambodian economy. However, the event is currently in the heat of speculations from around the world in this unprecedented moment in the history of the European Union. Brexit, a short expression for Britain Exit [EU], was the referendum of the United Kingdom on its continuity as a member of EU, where 48.1 % voting to remain and 51.9 % winning the leave.

Samdech Hun Sen and Lord Puttman in October 2014 in Phnom Penh Cambodia UK relations

Samdech Hun Sen meets Lord David Puttman in October 2014 in Phnom Penh. At the time, Cambodian government urged UK to increase investments in the Asian country. Photo Chey Phoumipul, Courtesy AKP.

The biggest Asian markets are, surely, concern on the events, although some policy makers in Japan, Korea and India said that there will not be too much impact in terms of their respective countries’ real economies, according to a report by BBC.

As for ASEAN, an emulator of EU, experts coincided in the same comforting thought: that there will be a little impact just because EU is the biggest investor in ASEAN, not UK alone. Muhadi Sugiono, an expert on international relations at the Gadjah Mada University said to The Jakarta Post:

If Britons opt to leave the EU (Brexit), there will be significant changes within the supranational EU body, but the changes will not be immense enough to cast shadows over other regional entities like ASEAN

Definitively, the Brexit would mean a biggest impact in the UK economy that will have to deal separated from the powerful European market. By sure, countries, regions and groups like ASEAN will make their preference for a United Europe, rather than for a single country. At the same time, the Brexit triggers further processes such as the same unity of the Kingdom, when North Ireland, Gibraltar and Scotland chose to remain in the UE. It is the most probable that a second Scottish referendum for independence will start to be on the move in the coming months. It is most likely that UK will miss more EU than the Union will miss UK…

The leave of UK from the Union – something that would take two years to be complete according to the EU’s Article 50, could encourage also other states to consider their roles inside economic regional integrations, including ASEAN and even the UN. In this sense, the upcoming US elections will play also a meaningful role if Republicans step on the White House with the return to more economical protective policies and a slightly walking away from globalization, seen as a threat  to national security (the case of immigrants as a case), allegedly reduction of sovereignty and the intention to establish the utopia of a world’s government.

In the case of Cambodia, a small but fast growing economy, the Brexit will not have much negative impacts, out of the reduction of British tourism in the coming years, until UK can take whole control of the economical upheaval that already started with the fall of the British pound and a predicted inflation. It is more probably that the current Cambodian-UK agreements would become more important, as UK has to ensure more market partners after its leave from EU and the Cambodian government tendency to diversify economical relations with different groups and regions, rather than depending alone from a group like EU. In the UK government site it is written (the strike is mine, correcting a mistake on the text):

As part of South East Asia, Cambodia is part of a diverse diverse and distinct region that represents a number of opportunities for the UK. As such, there is an opportunity to advance UK interests by taking a regional approach in addition to bilateral activities.

During the visit of Lord David Puttman, British Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy on October 13, 2014, the Cambodian government urged UK  “to increase purchase orders for Cambodian products so as to further promote trade relations between the two countries,” (Xinhuanet, 2014) By his part, Puttman said to The Phnom Penh Post:

My priority is helping to create the conditions here [in Cambodia], which will give UK’s businesses, people and investors more confidence to come here. Essentially, this is my job.

An alone UK will mean by sure an aggressive UK trying to ensure partners to trade with them, now separated from EU and it could be a benefit for small economies like the Cambodian one, but also of ASEAN. But conditions will develop in the coming months and maybe we will see more surprising events to come. We hope that even if Brexit is coming to realization, Europe will keep united and able to face difficult situations like terrorism, humanitarian emergencies like the ones of refugees and the support for impoverished world regions like Cambodia.


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About Albeiro Rodas

Albeiro Rodas (in Cambodia Sky Ly Samnang), is a MA in Digital Communication, independent journalist and a Salesian of Don Bosco from Amalfi, Colombia, based in Cambodia since 1999. He is the creator of the Don Bosco schools of journalism in Sihanoukville and Kep with young people from poor communities and the founder of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund. Medal for Social Commitment UPB (2010); among the 100 more upstanding Colombians abroad (Marca Colombia, 2012, and among the 12 Colombians that are making this a better world 2013 (

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