Tanks and armoured personnel carriers that arrived at Sihanoukville port in October 2012 will be used for self-defence but will not be deployed offensively, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday.
Speaking to more than 1,000 villagers and several dozen military commanders in Siem Reap’s Banteay Srey district, Hun Sen stressed the nation had no plan to invade its neighbours.
“We just bought tanks and artillery to use for training and strengthening the capacity of military; only for self-defence, not to create war with any country,” Hun Sen said.
The prime minister said he would not disclose the origins of the tanks, which Defence Minister Tea Banh last week said came from Ukraine, as it was a “confidential” matter.
About 100 tanks and 40 armoured personnel carriers arrived in Cambodia last month, marking one of the largest military shipments in recent history. The purchase falls in line with a military budget that has seen significant ramping up in recent years. In the most recent budget, expected to be voted into effect tomorrow, defence spending is set to jump more than 14 per cent to $400.16 million in 2013.
In September 2010, in the middle of a border dispute with Thailand, Cambodia purchased 94 tanks from an Eastern Euro-pean country widely thought to be Ukraine. The same year, China donated some 250 vehicles to the Cambodian military.
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the party supported the decision to buy tanks or weapons to protect territorial sovereignty, but said he was concerned over a lack of transparency regarding military finances. Hun Sen also used his speech to apologise to the security officials for not calling them once a ceasefire at the Thai border went into effect in May 2011.
To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at [email protected]