Switzerland and Cambodia established diplomatic relations in 1963. The two countries enjoy good bilateral relations. Switzerland is supporting the transition process and economic development efforts in Cambodia. Economic exchanges between the two countries are minimal.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Cambodia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
The Swiss embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, represents Swiss diplomatic interests in Cambodia. The Cambodian ambassador to Switzerland resides in Geneva, and there is also a Cambodian consulate in Zurich.
Switzerland and Cambodia have had diplomatic relations since 1963. The two countries have engaged in regular political dialogue since 2016.
Switzerland contributes to development and transition aid through its international cooperation activities. A programme office of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) was opened in Phnom Penh in 2012, and the cooperation office was established in a Swiss consular agency in 2014.
Switzerland also cooperates with Cambodia within the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Switzerland has been a sectoral dialogue partner since July 2016.
Economic and financial relations
Trade relations between the two countries are limited but growing, and exchanges also exist in the private sector. Switzerland's leading exports to Cambodia are pharmaceuticals and machinery. Its main imports are precious stones, textiles, shoes and agricultural products.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Cambodia can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Peacebuilding and human security
Given the fragility that prevails in Cambodia – a legacy of almost three decades of civil war – Switzerland engages in human security efforts on an ad hoc basis. In 2013, for example, Switzerland co-organised a forum in Phnom Penh on the prevention of genocide with Argentina and Tanzania, and in 2014 it organised a seminar on transitional justice mechanisms for Cambodian judges. In 2017 the SDC supported an arts project to preserve the collective memory with a ballet depicting the practice of forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge regime.
Moreover, Switzerland is following with interest the activities of the UN tribunal that is investigating the crimes of the Khmer Rouge and is working to call to account those perpetrators who are still alive.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
The SDC, already operating in Cambodia since the mid-1990s, has stepped up its engagement since opening a cooperation office in Phnom Penh in 2012. In the field of healthcare, it supports the Kantha Bopha children's hospitals managed by the Swiss paediatrician Dr Beat Richner, now deceased.
Cambodia is also one of the countries under the Mekong Region Cooperation Strategy for 2018–21, which is coordinated by the SDC. This strategy focuses on three main areas:
- inclusive economic development
- climate change and natural resource management, including disaster risk reduction (DRR)
- governance and citizen participation.
Regarding humanitarian aid, the SDC has intervened occasionally since 1996 after natural disasters such as flooding, providing medical and public health services or helping to restore temples, for example.
Two regional specialists in disaster risk reduction and disaster management have been based in Bangkok since 2013 to support SDC projects in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region and to respond rapidly to natural disasters in both regions. The two specialists are also helping ASEAN to step up its disaster risk management and rapid response capabilities.
Swiss nationals in Cambodia
At the end of 2021, there were 376 Swiss nationals living in Cambodia.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised Cambodia in 1957, and the two countries have had diplomatic relations since 1963. Swiss Humanitarian Aid has been operating in Cambodia since 1978, both directly and through international aid organisations.
The two countries expanded their development cooperation in 2012 with the opening of an SDC programme office in Phnom Penh.