PICH NIL, KOMPONG SPEU - In an effort to deal with the on-going threat from the Khmer
Rouge and other potential national security threats, the newly-constructed Royal
Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Jungle Warfare School (Sala Aranya Songkriam) was officially
innaugurated here on June 22.
Co-Ministers of Defense Generals Tea Banh and Tea Chamrath presided over the opening
ceremonies, highlighting the importance that the Royal Government places in the new
training center as a vehicle for dealing with the Khmer Rouge insurgency.
Built with Australian Defence Forces (ADF) funds, Maj Gen W.J. Crews, Asst. Chief
of Defense for Logistics, visiting from Canberra, was the senior ADF officer present
at the school's opening. He underscored Australia's committment to continue its support
for military training aid to the RCAF.
"Our aid is modest but we must follow up on the work undertaken so far,"
said Crews, referring to ADF's committment to provide on-going technical support
to both the counter-insurgency school and overall RCAF training needs. "It would
be wrong to walk out the gate and say 'its yours'," he added.
The facility, situated 104 kms southwest of Phnom Penh on Route 4, will be the Kingdom's
primary institution for preparing RCAF units in the theory and practices of counter
insurgency, guerrilla warfare and "close country" combat situations.
The school's curriculum will be divided into three components, according to Major
Gen. Khem Sophoan, Deputy Chief of the RCAF General Staff in charge of training.
Battalion-size classes of around 230 soliders will spend an initial month at the
school studying how to use and maintain weapons, guerrilla psychology, and undergoing
drill practices. A second month will be spent at jungle camps within five kms of
the center where specific jungle tactics would be learned, including mapping, the
use of compasses, setting up ambushes and reconnaissance techniques. A final month
will involve platoon-sized units on maneouvres 20-30 kms from Pich Nil, perhaps as
far as Oral District, with mock-operations undertaken in remote areas.
Initially, RCAF's three Counter Guerrilla Brigades, numbering about 1,000 men each,
will receive training at the school. These are the units which saw the brunt of the
fighting during the recent dry season offensive in the northwest.
A battalion from the 1st Guerrilla Brigade, headquartered in Kompong Speu has already
begun its first month of coursework. Subsequent units will undergo training during
the rest of this year; the 2nd and 3rd Brigades will receive training in 1997, according
Australian Defense Attache Col. David Meade said the curriculum was similar to that
of the ADF Land Command Battle School at Tully in the jungles of North Queensland
but that is was up the the Cambodians to decide the specifics of their own program.
He also noted that the Australians were extremely interested in encouraging training
for RCAF medics in preventive medicine and the use of condoms.
Referring the the burgeoning number of HIV positive cases in Cambodia and the role
that the military plays in spreading HIV/AIDS, Meade said "this could become
an African-like disaster over time....(RCAF) needs education on the passage of infectious
The ADF provided around $1.2 million to cover the construction of the school, comprising
14 buildings for barracks, classrooms and a mess hall, as well as a water treatment
facility and bathrooms. An additional $1.3 million was used to train 55 RCAF instructors
who spent two months last year at the Tully counter insurgency center.
Overall ADF funding to the RCAF has been pegged at a level of around US$2.4 million
per year since early 1994 and looks to remain at this level in the near-term. Funds
for the Jungle Warfare School were provided in addition to this on-going aid, which
has been used to provide RCAF officers with English-language training, develop a
communications maintenance facility in the Ministry of Defence, construct a maritime
workshop at the Ream naval Base near Sihanoukville, support the refurbishment of
the Senior Officer Management School at Russei Keo, and upgrade the military's medical
Gen. Sophoan said the school would make a big difference in the RCAF's ability to
deal with the Khmer Rouge and that it would enable RCAF units to "ambush, harass
and make it difficult for the KR."
As an officer during the Lon Nol regime and then a general with the Khmer Peoples
National Liberation Front Armed Forces, Sophoan said about the KR, "I know all
their strategy and tactics. This has been my skill since 1970."
Referring to the level of interest that the initial group of soldiers had in guerrilla
warfare training, ADF Warrant Officer Cootes said "they're as keen as mustard."