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Military beefs up defences

TROOPS in the northwest are stockpiling munitions following heightened tensions between Thailand and Cambodia in recent weeks, officers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) confirmed Monday.

RCAF General Men Saroeun, in charge of air defence in Military Region 5 based in Battambang province, said his forces had recently received significant supplies of new small arms and artillery. “We now have modern weapons to defend our nation,” he said. “We have what the Thai soldiers have. This is our strategy to defend our border.”

Tanks were seen being transported along National Road 5 last week in Battambang province, and an RCAF general, speaking on condition of anonymity, said missiles with a range of up to 60 kilometres had also arrived. In addition to 16 new tanks delivered to Military Region 5, he said, more than 700 RCAF officers have been issued K-54 pistols, marking the first time since 2000 that low-level commanders have been issued sidearms.

Chhouk Ang, commander of Border Police Battalion 911 in Banteay Meanchey province, said he received word from his superiors to be on alert in the wake of the spat between Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. “While we remain watchful at all times, we have put our forces on alert to prevent Thai forces from entering Cambodian territory,” he said.

But Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the re-arming was unrelated to tensions between Thailand and Cambodia, which intensified last week after Prime Minister Hun Sen invited fugitive ex-Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to serve as his economic adviser.

“This has nothing to do with relations between Cambodia and Thailand. The Thai Foreign Ministry has said that Cambodia and Thailand have a good relationship and that Thaksin’s case is a personal issue,” he said, adding that such rearmaments are a normal part of military operations.

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