S IHANOUKVILLE - Two Mi-8 helicopters have finally been repatriated back to
Cambodia after more than five years being refurbished in Russia.
"We almost forgot about them," an air force technician told the post in
Sihaanoukville, where the helicopters were being assembled from crates on a
The helicopters-which had belonged to Kampuchea Airlines which used them for
ferrying around government delegations-were sent to Russia for repair in late
Tach ouk, former deputy managing director of Kampuchea Airlines,
said the former Soviet Union was to have been paid in a barter deal of wood and
He said such compensation was then the typical way that Cambodia
paid for such deals.
However, the break-up of the Soviet Union had
"complicated" the deal, and Russia later demanded payment in cash, instead of
wood and rubber, he said.
The newly-refurbished helicopters were only
returned after the government paid $550,000.
Air Force officials said the helicopters would be given to the military once
the assembling was completed, but they didn't know how the helicopters were to
"They are a bit old and may only be used for transportation," one officer
Tach Ouk said the helicopters were among those donated in 1982 by "a friendly
communist country". Six helicopters had previously been donated by the airline
to the military.
Reuters reported on Feb 11 that six Mi-17 helicopters from Ukraine have
already arrived at Klong Toey in Bangkok for delivery to the Cambodian Air Force
later this month.
According to the Air Force official approached by the Post in Sihanoukville,
the government had also planned to get two other ailing Russian helicopters
refurbished. "But it depends on the availability of the cash."