China on Tuesday officially handed over 1,000 handguns and 50,000 bullets to Cambodia at the General Commissariat of National Police at the Ministry of Interior, police said, while maintaining the aid had nothing to do with tightening post-election security.
A National Police press officer said, on condition of anonymity, that the donation of weapons was a bilateral cooperation deal that had long been in the works, and that the timing of the donation was purely coincidental, though analysts remained sceptical.
“It was an old deal for cooperation and strengthening security and public order between Cambodia and China, and the handover just coincided with the post-election [period],” he said. “It is not a secret, because the deal was posted on our website today.”
He said that a memorandum of understanding had been signed between National Police chief Neth Savoeun and Li Zhuqun, the deputy chief of China’s General Department for International Cooperation.
“Senior Chinese authorities said Cambodia and China are always united, and China has always helped Cambodia with both aid and diplomatic ties,” Savoeun was quoted as saying on the National Police website.
In response, the website quoted Li Zhuqun as saying that “China would like to praise the [good] relationship about social order” it enjoys with Cambodia.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith could not be reached for comment.
Analyst Kem Ley maintained that it was “not the right time” for the handover, coming as it does on widely circulating rumours of political unrest, and went on to lay part of the blame at China’s feet.
“It’s not the time to show publicly about the military and all that,” he said. “The communist countries try not to find peaceful solutions; they always try to force things.”
China has a long history of giving military aid to Cambodia. They delivered 12 military helicopters to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces last month and paid for a new military institute in Kampong Speu province earlier this year.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE