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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Choppers from Russia... at last

Choppers from Russia... at last

S IHANOUKVILLE - Two Mi-8 helicopters have finally been repatriated back to

Cambodia after more than five years being refurbished in Russia.


"We almost forgot about them," an air force technician told the post in

Sihaanoukville, where the helicopters were being assembled from crates on a

landing field.

The helicopters-which had belonged to Kampuchea Airlines which used them for

ferrying around government delegations-were sent to Russia for repair in late


Tach ouk, former deputy managing director of Kampuchea Airlines,

said the former Soviet Union was to have been paid in a barter deal of wood and


He said such compensation was then the typical way that Cambodia

paid for such deals.

However, the break-up of the Soviet Union had

"complicated" the deal, and Russia later demanded payment in cash, instead of

wood and rubber, he said.

The newly-refurbished helicopters were only

returned after the government paid $550,000.

Air Force officials said the helicopters would be given to the military once

the assembling was completed, but they didn't know how the helicopters were to

be used.

"They are a bit old and may only be used for transportation," one officer


Tach Ouk said the helicopters were among those donated in 1982 by "a friendly

communist country". Six helicopters had previously been donated by the airline

to the military.

Reuters reported on Feb 11 that six Mi-17 helicopters from Ukraine have

already arrived at Klong Toey in Bangkok for delivery to the Cambodian Air Force

later this month.

According to the Air Force official approached by the Post in Sihanoukville,

the government had also planned to get two other ailing Russian helicopters

refurbished. "But it depends on the availability of the cash."



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