At least 700 applicants have signed up to join the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), with the successful recruits to be trained to operate new Chinese-built artillery, a senior military source said yesterday.
News of the recruitment drive, revealed in a document circulated in local media yesterday, came as US and Cambodian soldiers began the second day of the annual Angkor Sentinel joint military excises in Kampong Speu province.
According to the document, signed in January, 500 recruits, between 18 and 25 years old and holding at least a high school diploma, were to be trained at the National Defence University and the Army’s artillery headquarters in Kampong Speu’s Samrong Tong district.
Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said the induction was the first specifically for artillery soldiers. “This requires long-term training . . . When they finish . . . they will be shared to units and regions,” he said yesterday.
Speaking anonymously, a senior RCAF officer yesterday said 700 people had already signed up despite a recruitment deadline not until April 30.
“Our artillery expert solders are not yet strong enough with the new weapons technology, so the training for the young generation is important,” he said.
“The types of artillery we are using now are mainly 100mm, 130mm, BM-21 [a truck-mounted rocket launcher system] and other smaller mortars. Previously, our soldiers used Soviet-made weapons, but they are old now. The new weapons we have are made in China.”
Between 2005 and 2015, using estimated figures, $114 million of Cambodia’s $252 million in conventional weapons acquisitions came from China, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
China has sent at least four gunboats, 50 portable surface-to-air missile launchers, two transport planes and 12 helicopters, financed by a loan, SIPRI data show.
Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific industry reporter for defence analyst IHS Jane’s, said China’s support was “vital” as the West wouldn’t arm Cambodia given its “political situation”.
The US does not provide lethal aid to Cambodia but runs joint trainings. The annual two-week Angkor Sentinel exercises, which started on Monday, focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and improving military-to-military cooperation, according to the US Army’s website.