United States Marines began a four-day bilateral maritime exercise with the Cambodian military off the Kingdom’s south coast today, according to a US Marines press release.
The Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit includes 2,200 marines and sailors who will participate in military cooperation with Cambodian forces designed to prepare the region for regional humanitarian disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the statement said.
“Our military forces engage in cooperative programmes throughout the year aimed at developing relationships to allow for combined efforts,” said Colonel Andrew MacMannis, commanding officer of the 31st MEU.
Chhun Socheat, Ministry of Defense spokesman, could not be reached today.
The 31st MEU participated in the Cobra Gold military exercises with Thailand from February 7 to 18, one of the largest land-based, joint military training exercises in the world, which has grown to include forces from Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea.
The predecessor to the 31st MEU, the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit, was involved in operation Eagle Pull, the US evacuation of Phnom Penh on April 12, 1975.
Last July, military forces from 23 countries came to Kampong Speu province to participate in Angkor Sentinel, the Kingdom’s first large-scale international peacekeeping exercise, which was co-hosted by the US Pacific Command.
Human rights organisations criticised the US at the time for funding the construction of a military base for the exercises that had been recently occupied by the Cambodian military’s ACO tank unit, because the unit had been involved in illegal land-grabbing documented by the US State Department and rights organisations.
The US has said it screens all individuals who receive US military training or assistance.
The Angkor Sentinel 2011 peacekeeping exercise is set for May 16-28 this year.