Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CTN offers bunkers on front line

CTN offers bunkers on front line

CTN offers bunkers on front line

CAMBODIA Television Network says it is raising money to construct concrete bunkers for troops stationed along the Thai border as part of a controversial programme in which private businesses provide charitable support to the military.

Although government officials have said the donations that come through the programme will focus on humanitarian needs – including food and shelter for the families of soldiers stationed at the border – CTN director Tok Kimsay said yesterday that the station hoped to provide support for troops in potential combat.

“We are talking to people and asking them to provide charity to build concrete bunkers for the soldiers stationed at the front line,” Tok Kimsay said. “This material will protect the troops in case of war.”

Tok Kimsay said CTN was collecting both money and raw materials through a televised campaign that began on Tuesday to support the construction of bunkers along a 113-kilometre stretch of border primarily in Oddar Meanchey province.

Existing fortifications, he said, were often constructed out of earth and easily damaged by rain and flooding.

Yim Phim, commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 8, said his troops had begun building concrete bunkers at the border but did
not have the resources to extend the project beyond their main encampments.

“We need more bunkers, but they require a lot of money for construction,” he said.

Tok Kimsay said CTN had collected 40 tonnes of cement thus far, and estimated that 1,000 tonnes of concrete and 500 tonnes of steel would be necessary to complete the project.

The business-military partnerships were first laid out in a document signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen in February. CTN, one of the companies named as a participant, recently helped finance a 9-kilometre road for troops in Oddar Meanchey.

Though government officials have characterised the partnerships as an innocuous example of corporate charity, rights groups fear the scheme could further obscure military finances and leave troops beholden to private interests.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he was unfamiliar with CTN’s plans, but emphasised that businesses were not meant to finance combat-related projects.

“In principle, it should play the role of humanitarian, not warfare,” Phay Siphan said.

In addition to the corporate sponsorship scheme, the government budgeted US$277 million for military spending in 2010, a 24 percent increase from the previous year.

Carlyle Thayer, a professor of politics at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said the sponsorships and increased spending were likely less about preparing for a conventional military conflict then they were an attempt by Hun Sen to stir up nationalist sentiment and ensure loyalty from the armed forces.

“It keeps the military on his side if you talk about an external threat or their importance,” Thayer said.

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,