The Secretariat of the National Committee for Maritime Security (NCMS) has reaffirmed its commitment to cooperating closely with all international partners to enhance the capabilities of the Tactical Command Headquarters (TCH).

The commitment was made in an official statement to clarify the recent dismantling of the TCH, located at the Ream Naval Base in Preah Sihanouk province, which was repaired by the US. The TCH is slated to be relocated about 30km away to Koh Preap.

“The NCMS Secretariat is strongly committed to keeping and promoting close cooperation with all international partners with transparency and respect of mutual interests.

“The NCMS warmly welcomes the participation of various international partners to enhance future operational capabilities of the TCH,” it said.

The NCMS clarified that the relocation of the TCH to Koh Preab was chosen because the previous facility had limitations.

It said the old location had no docking facilities and limited potential to expand infrastructure. It also presented difficulties for non-military personnel to work in this particular restricted area.

The NCMS said as a national institution, the TCH requires an independent location which can facilitate and enhance its operations, interventions, and rescue efforts.

The TCH needed to develop its capacity through infrastructure and operational effectiveness and that could not have been achieved at its previous location.

The TCH was temporarily set up within Ream Naval Base in 2010, the NCMS said. It is an operational unit responsible for implementing multi-agency law enforcement.

Under a military programme in cooperation with international partners, the US and Australia provided support with small-scale infrastructure and training.

But these TCH operations have presented difficulties along with its success, which is why it had to be moved, the NCMS said.

It said the relocation was made after a study conducted in 2017. It also explained the reasons for the relocation to international partners, particularly the US, and has not received any official objection to the relocation plan.

“The new location on Koh Preab is favourable to address all of the aforementioned issues. The NCMS Secretariat is constructing a new TCH, which is larger in scale, and will avoid any detrimental impact on the support provided by its international partners.

“The new location will facilitate increased operational efficiency with its docking facilities, simplify liaison between relevant national institutions, provide freedom for further infrastructure expansion and promote cooperation with international partners,” the NCMS said.

Over the past few days, a US-based organisation and many foreign newspapers published a series of articles saying that Cambodia had dismantled the US-constructed building and that the expansion of the Ream port is underway with support from China.

However, the demolition of the building and the expansion of the Ream port were planned earlier. On June 1, Prime Minister Hun Sen talked about the development of this port when he inspected development in Preah Sihanouk province.

Hun Sen said: “The dockyard cannot be seen as a Chinese construction just because it is funded by China. Frankly speaking, we need Chinese financing to build it. However, we would welcome funding from all interested parties.

“On access to Ream Naval Base, I wish to declare that we welcome ships from all countries including the US, France, Canada, India, UK, Japan, Australia, and not just from China, to make port calls or to participate in joint exercises with Cambodia.

“It is baseless to assert that Cambodia has given China 50 to 90 years of exclusive rights to the base.”

Hun Sen said Cambodia welcomes all aid from various countries including the US, France, Japan and China to build the headquarters and develop the port.

The port expansion, he said, came because Cambodia had difficulty taking in ships for repairs from Thailand and Vietnam. When the port is built, it will have a facility for repairs that is open to all.

He said even if Cambodia received financing from China to develop the port, it will not allow a foreign army to use it as the military base in the country because it contravenes the Constitution.