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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and CambodiaÕs Prime Minister Hun Sen stand as they hold bilateral talks in Phnom Penh, Cambodia January 11, 2018. REUTERS/Samrang Pring(reuters_tickers)
By Prak Chan Thul
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia and China signed 19 aid and investment pacts on Thursday in the latest sign of their strengthening relationship as Cambodia turns further away from Western donors.
China is Cambodia's biggest aid donor and its backing has bolstered Hun Sen in the face of criticism over what his opponents have said amounts to his destruction of democracy ahead of an election this year.
The agreements, whose value was not disclosed, were signed after talks between China's Premier Li Keqiang and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen.
They included one between the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation and China Development Bank (CDB) for a loan for a new airport in Siem Reap province, and another deal to build a highway from Phnom Penh to the beach resort of Sihanoukville, already a hub of Chinese investment.
Cambodia's Royal Group of Companies and China Great Wall Industry Corporation agreed to launch the southeast Asian nation's first communications satellite. Other deals included soft loans for electricity supply and support for agriculture.
Li and Hun Sen also discussed how to encourage Chinese tourists to visit Cambodia and exports of sugar to China, Eang Sophalleth, an aide to Hun Sen, said.
Li told Hun Sen that China had another aid pledge of more than 1.2 billion yuan (136.4 million pounds) for other projects, Eang Sophalleth said.
Cambodia's Foreign Ministry said bilateral trade would reach $6 billion by 2020.
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)