The government retains its stance that reforms which will strengthen and develop the capacity of the armed forces and its ability to cooperate with other government institutions remain priorities.

Addressing the celebrations of the 29th anniversary of the inauguration of Brigade 70 on June 12, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government will continue to implement reform programmes to support the strengthening of the capacity of the military and develop its processional skills, so the military can perform its duties more efficiently.

“The government’s support for the strengthening and expansion of cooperation of each unit of the armed forces remains steadfast,” he said.

“Their development is of prime importance. They not only defending the territorial integrity of the Kingdom, but also contribute to humanitarian work and serve as peacekeepers with the UN,” he added.

Hun Sen appealed to donors and development partners to continue to contribute to addressing shortages and training difficulties of the Cambodian armed forces.

Thong Mengdavid, research fellow at the Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies of Asian Vision Institute, said that Cambodia still has a need for a capable military, especially as its older veterans retire. Despite being at peace, the Kingdom’s soldiers need to maintain and sharpen their skills.

“Cambodia requires military aid, training and equipment. This is why the Kingdom needs to continue to foster military cooperation with foreign partners and conduct joint military exercises, so it can share experiences learn from one another,” he added.

He continued that as a small nation, Cambodia does not need a military to launch attacks or threaten other countries, but requires a capable and skilled force that can maintain peace and stability within the country and take part in peacekeeping missions in the region and the wider world.

Since 2006, Cambodia has sent over 8,000 troops to join peacekeeping missions under the UN umbrella in 11 countries – the Republic of Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, Lebanon, Mali, Syria, Cyprus and Yemen.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that the capacity of the Cambodian military remained low when compared to those of neighbouring countries, so it needed to develop its command structure, weapons and capabilities. For example, Cambodia was yet to develop the ability to defend its maritime borders in the face of controversial activities by the super powers, he said.

“We need to develop all aspects of our military. Other nations and the public should understand that this is does not mean we have any intention of making war. The defence forces exist to protect us from external enemies,” he added.

He encouraged the government to focus on allocating budgets in a careful, transparent way, in order to improve the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ capability of defending the Kingdom’s land and maritime borders.