The ministry generally operates away from the spotlight and foreign trips by the minister are rare.
Chen, who assumed the post in 2022, pledged to deepen “pragmatic cooperation” in security intelligence with Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Manet and deputy prime minister Neth Savoeun as the country marks the 65th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing, the ministry’s statement said.
In the visit to Vietnam, Chen was received by Vietnam president Vo Van Thuong, as the pair said security cooperation is “an important part” of the relationship between the two countries and their ruling Communist Parties. They also agreed to “further strengthen practical cooperation in the security intelligence field”.
Two members of the Vietnamese politburo – To Lam, its Public Security Minister, and Nguyễn Văn Nên, the party chief of Ho Chi Minh City – also met Chen.
Chen also highlighted the importance of security intelligence cooperation in meetings with Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Thanakorn Buaras, the head of its National Intelligence Agency.
Chen and Thai leaders both agreed the two countries “should work together to deepen their cooperative relationship [and] promptly exchange in-depth views” on issues of mutual concern to ensure the safety of people and organisations in both countries, the ministry statement added.
The ministry said that in all three countries: “[Chen and the foreign officials] exchanged in-depth views on deepening security intelligence cooperation and issues of mutual concern between China and the three countries, reaching a broad consensus.”
In recent years there have been a number of controversial cases when Chinese dissidents in Southeast Asia have been handed over to Beijing.
A notable example is Gui Minhai, a Swedish national and one of the owners of a bookstore that sold gossipy political books about China in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay. Gui disappeared from his home in the Thai resort of Pattaya in 2015 at the same time that four of his colleagues also went missing.
Chen’s visit also came as a point that the three Southeast Asian countries have become increasingly important to China’s strategic concerns in its rivalry with the United States.