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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Iran offers military a hand

Iran offers military a hand

IRANIAN officials have been visiting Cambodia with proposals to train RCAF staff

- an offer that if accepted is likely to jeopardize military co-operation with

western nations.

The Post understands the first approach was made three months ago when an official

from the Iranian Embassy in Hanoi met with head of RCAF Ke Kim Yan.

At that time the offer was rejected.

But within the past month military officials from Iran have been in Phnom Penh and

have again met with Ke Kim Yan. Their visit has been described as private.

Military sources said that there was no defense co-operation protocol with Iran so

there was no mechanism to put any training program in place.

Senior RCAF staff spoken to by the Post have either denied the contact or shied away

from discussing it.

Co-Defense Minister Prince Sisowath Sirirath looked visibly shaken when the topic

was brought up, then said: "There are some things that are put in the top draw

and locked away and never discussed.

"We must be careful not to upset our allies."

And military co-operation with Iran is definitely going to upset some of Cambodia's

western friends.

Those spoken to by the Post refused to speak on the record. However off the record

they said any such relationship with Iran would kill off any chances of military

assistance from their own countries.

It is not clear what assistance the Iranians were offering but the two most likely

areas are air defense and the navy.

Cambodia has no air defense system - all its Mig fighter aircraft are non-operational

and it has no working surface-to-air missiles.

The navy is in tatters and there is a growing realization at government level that

an effective navy is essential to assist with border control, smuggling, protection

of fishing grounds and guarding offshore petrochemical resources.



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