THE Royal Cambodian Armed Forces' military might on the ground and in the air is
set for a significant boost, as it receives new planes, tanks and armored
personnel carriers from abroad.
All of Cambodia's old MIG-21 fighter
planes are to be refurbished, sources say, while the government is also
purchasing jet trainers and reconnaissance planes.
It is also understood
that the shipment of the first 50 of 90 second-hand tanks purchased from Poland
and the Czech Republic has landed at Kompong Som port.
RCAF sources said
the remaining 40 T-55 tanks would arrive "soon", along with more than 20 armed
personnel carriers which are included in the deal.
Co-Minister of Defense
Tea Banh said late last year that the tanks would be used to "oppose the Khmer
Rouge's preparation for fighting during the dry season".
reliable Ministry of Defense source said that four of Cambodia's old,
dilapidated MIG-21 fighter planes were sent to Israel for refurbishment in early
Israel would refurbish all 21 of the Soviet-made planes
purchased by Cambodia in the 1980s - in a deal which included Cambodian pilots
traveling to the Soviet Union for flight training - but which are now disused
because of disrepair.
The refurbishment of the first four fighters was
due to be completed in three months, when Cambodian pilots would travel to
Israel to test fly them.
The remaining MIGs would be refurbished by the
end of the year, he said.
Cambodia would also receive six Czech-made
L-39 jet fighter trainers under the deal with Israel, the source
The planes, described as being in a "good" but not completely
functional state, were due to arrive in Cambodia at the end of January. They
would be sent to an airfield in Kampong Chhnang province for further training of
Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) pilots.
It remains unclear whether it
is planned to use the MIGs against Khmer Rouge-occupied positions.
defense source would only say that "with better jet fighters, we will be able to
increase our ability to protect the territorial integrity and space boundaries
of our country".
Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh did not directly respond
to questions about the MIG-21s, but confirmed a separate purchase of other
He said the government had bought six Italian P92 reconnaissance
planes, which are understood to already be in use in Cambodia.
also confirmed that the government hoped to redevelop the Kampong Chhnang
airfield into an RCAF airbase. But he said the proposal had yet to be officially
considered because of financial problems.
"We intended to redevelop [it]
when we have the budget for it. There is a lot of work that needs to be done and
we are maintaining what remains [at the airport]," said Tea Banh.
soldiers in Kampong Chhnang told the Post the RCAF planned to train jet fighter
pilots at the airport, which is currently under military control.
airfield - said to be the largest in the country - was built by Chinese
engineers during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 regime but was never completed
because of the Vietnamese invasion which ousted the government.