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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Aust to help set up naval repair base

Aust to help set up naval repair base

I T is likely the Australian government will support the establishment of a maritime maintenance facility at the Riam Naval Base, according to Australia's Military Attaché to Cambodia Colonel Mike Smith.

He said: "We are currently engaged in a feasibility study to help establish a maritime maintenance facility at Riam, [Sihanoukville province].

"This project is likely to go ahead as the Australian Defense Department has set aside a lot of equipment from its effort to rationalize Australian naval bases.

"If approved, we will also train tradesmen in the basic skills necessary to maintain [naval] ships."

Smith spoke with the Post after the 10 member Australian Military fact-finding mission left Cambodia on July 22.

Commitments for further military aid to Cambodia depend in part on the recommendations of the mission, but Colonel Smith refused to be drawn on what those recommendations would be.

He said: "Because the mission's report is not yet complete, the findings and conclusions have not been made public."

He added: "There is no connection between this visit and the bill recently passed in the National Assembly to outlaw the Khmer Rouge nor is there any connection between this visit and the problem with hostages taken by the Khmer Rouge."

"The mission came to Cambodia after requests were received from the Cambodian government for additional military assistance and as a result of the visit of Cambodian Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Ke Kim Yan to Australia in late June and early July."

Smith said: "With the departure of the United Nations military in November of 1993, the Australian commitment to aid the Cambodian military did not end."

He said the Australian government had funded two other non-lethal assistants projects for the Cambodian military since the departure of Untac.

"In the first project 18 soldiers have finished the first phase of an English training program where they are being trained as English instructors.

"A number of these soldiers will be chosen to enter the next phase of [English] instructor training."

He added that the second major program the Australians are involved in is a multi-phase communications project, which will provide reliable communications between army headquarters.

"We brought in the [communications] equipment, the Cambodians provided the warehouse. We have taught them how to install and operate the equipment.

"Like the English training this program is in its first phase and proceeding to the next phase will depend on successful completion of the first phase.

"In our attempt to help the Cambodian military, we have tried to make our efforts public and transparent.

"We have emphasized that these projects involve and require the cooperation of the Cambodian government and military."

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