Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Golden Dragon military exercises end with bang



Golden Dragon military exercises end with bang

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Defence Minister Tea Banh (centre) examines equipment on the closing day of the joint Chinese-Cambodian Golden Dragon military exercises on Thursday. Heng Chivoan

Golden Dragon military exercises end with bang

Amid a hail of 20,000 bullets, the thud of eight helicopters, a hostage rescue demonstration and choreographed martial arts performances, the joint Chinese-Cambodian Golden Dragon military exercises concluded yesterday as officials from both sides praised the expanding relationship between the two countries.

Minister of Defence Tea Banh and Chinese Ambassador Xiong Bo oversaw the final drills on Thursday at Mreh Prov Mountain in Kampong Speu province, where hundreds of troops conducted heavy live-fire drills and deactivated chemical bombs as paratroopers jumped out of helicopters.

In his speech, Banh praised the growing friendship between China and Cambodia, which has increasingly pivoted towards Beijing as it alienates traditional Western development partners, particularly amid a widely criticised crackdown on the political opposition and civil society.

“With Chinese aid, it does not only help to develop Cambodia’s economy, but it also helps to strengthen the independence and sovereignty of Cambodia as well,” Banh said.

The exercises, which began on March 15, were conducted under the banner of “counter-terrorism and humanitarian relief”.


A joint press conference after the conclusion of the drills was highly scripted, with media outlets handpicked to ask pre-approved questions.

When asked about the purpose of the exercise, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Deputy Commander Zhou Songhe said the two countries “want to show external countries that China and Cambodia will cooperate with each other to maintain security and peace”.

“The importance of the military exercise is to get terrorists around the world to feel the threat,” Songhe said.

Jon Grevatt, an Asia-Pacific defence analyst for the publication IHS Jane’s, said military exercises in Southeast Asia have been increasing in frequency, with China in particular holding drills with almost every country in the region. The exercises “are not just to show strength but also to have a degree of relationship between senior military personnel”, Grevatt said.

He noted that Cambodia’s recent cancellation of annual military exercises with the US and Australia shows its growing closeness to China. “They are seeking to show a close and strong partnership, that they are in tune strategically, and that they have professional, well-equipped fighting forces,” he said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Troops conduct a counterterrorism drill involving eight helicopters shooting rockets at “terrorist camps” in the mountains of Kampong Speu on the closing day of the Chinese-Cambodian Golden Dragon military exercises on Thursday. Heng Chivoan

Sovinda Po, an international affairs expert at the East China Normal University in Shanghai, said in an email that the exercises gave China a stage to send “a clear message to the world, especially those China perceives as its rivals, that it is no longer a lonely superpower and Cambodia is always there for China”.

“As long as Cambodia is perceived as a good friend of and is able to maintain its benign relations with China, it is expected that the massive Chinese investments will be on the way,” he added.

However, Po said he harboured concerns that China will interfere in Cambodia’s domestic affairs, such as demanding that Cambodia relax its environmental or labour laws to accommodate Chinese investments.

“The risks associated with the Chinese engagement should not be blindly underestimated,” Sovinda said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and