Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Navy praises Hun Sen while musing absence of US, Australia

Navy praises Hun Sen while musing absence of US, Australia

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Two Russian warships docked in Preah Sihanouk in November for joint military exercises. Recently Cambodia has shirked similar trainings with the US and Australia. Photo supplied

Navy praises Hun Sen while musing absence of US, Australia

Cambodia’s navy has come out praising the “heroism and charisma” of Prime Minister Hun Sen, while noting with interest in its year-end report that military ships from the United States and Australia did not dock at Cambodian ports for joint drills in 2017.

In January last year, Cambodia cancelled its annual joint military exercises with the US. The following month, it did the same with Australia, with observers at the time pointing to a strategic pivot towards China.

Ouk Seyha, deputy naval commander, on Thursday said 11 ships from six different nations had docked at Cambodian military bases.

But, he noted, “Last year there was no US and no Australians docking . . . The US did not dare to come, but Australia had planned to come and Samdech [Defence Minister Tea Banh] had agreed for [Australia to come], but [Australia] said it was busy.”

“The interesting thing is China and Russia – they were happy with their visit and there were joint exercises,” he added.

But at the time, Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said it was Cambodia’s decision to call off the counter-terrorism training with Australia, saying Cambodia was too busy with upcoming elections and a controversial drug crackdown. Cambodia did make time, however, to train with China two months prior in their biggest ever joint exercise, codenamed “Golden Dragon”.

The navy’s remarks come at the same time as a comprehensive collection of papers about Cambodia’s foreign relations, published by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.

In one, focused on Cambodia’s defence strategy, Var Veasna, a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, noted that “both China and the US are two of the most important defense partners contributing significantly to the RCAF’s professional development and capability”.

“However,” Veasna wrote, the decision to postpone US and Australian military cooperation “has raised concerns about Cambodia’s future defense cooperation with Washington and the West”.

“Cambodia’s move has caused controversy about whether Cambodia is making a pivot to China . . . some defense analysts believe that such a move could have some negative impacts on Cambodia’s interests for its defense sector.”

Seyha also paid respect to Hun Sen’s “great heroism and charisma”, and claimed he had “brought political stability, eliminated the colour revolutionaries by taking action to suspend 118 [opposition] politicians and brought peace and security for the people across the country”.

Naval Commander Tea Vin also appeared to flout the military’s supposedly apolitical stance, saying there was a need to increase their activities “to prevent an attack by the enemy . . . and the traitor”, language reminiscent of that used to describe the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Cambodia’s navy. Deputy Commander Seyha said of the eight vessels purchased by the Kingdom between 2007 and 2017, only seven were ship-shape. One was undergoing repairs after running aground.

The navy also did not have “enough maps”, and radars at some bases were broken, he said. The Ministry of Defence saw an almost 20 percent bump in its budget between 2016 and 2017, to $462.4 million, and remains one of the highest funded ministries.

Additional reporting by Erin Handley

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • ‘On the offensive’: Cambodia to load up on loans to stimulate economy

    As the dust settles on the economy, Cambodia comes to grips with what needs to be done to turn the economy around, starting with a big shopping list for credit ‘We are going on the offensive,” Vongsey Vissoth, Ministry of Economy and Finance permanent secretary

  • Government set to make up for cancelled April holiday

    The government is set to make up for a five-day Khmer New Year holiday late this month or early next month. The holiday was earlier cancelled due to the onset of Covid-19. The announcement is expected on Friday as the government is studying a range

  • Crumbling prices, rent ruffle condo segment

    The prolonged decline in international arrivals to Cambodia intensified by renewed Covid-19 fears has driven down condominium sales prices and rental rates in Phnom Penh, a research report said. CBRE Cambodia, the local affiliate of US commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Group

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • More than 10,000 workers suspended

    More than 10,000 workers at 18 factories in Svay Rieng province have been suspended because of Covid-19, said provincial deputy governor Ros Pharith. Home to 11 special economic zones, Pharith said Svay Rieng has not been spared as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy. “There

  • Nod given for school exams

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport announced that State-run higher educational institutions can hold examinations to end the academic year, while private schools can organise grade 9 and grade 12 examinations at their premises for two days. However, private institutions have to take measures to prevent

  • Kingdom’s exports to US mushroom 25.94% in first five months to $2.4B

    Though Cambodia’s exports to other countries have been stalled amid the evolving Covid-19 environment, the Kingdom’s shipments to the US were worth 25.94 per cent more in the first five months of this year than they were in the year-ago period. Bilateral trade between