Prime Minister Hun Sen said he will request a UN investigation if more drones overfly the Kingdom’s territory, noting that he regarded the recent spate of drones that overflew the border as a brazen violation of Cambodian sovereignty that cannot be tolerated.
The remarks came as he met with nearly 20,000 factory workers on June 29 in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district. He also instructed foreign minister Prak Sokhonn to compose a letter to Indonesia, the rotating chair of ASEAN.
“We will not tolerate the flagrant invasion of our land or airspace. I have spoken with Sokhonn, and if the drones or unmanned aircraft continue to overfly our territory, we will ask UN secretary-general [Antonio Guterres] to investigate the matter,” he said.
“Is this an act of terrorism? Our airspace was violated by these unidentified drones, and we will not be insulted by these illicit actions. It is possible that the flights were conducted by terrorists, so the ASEAN bloc must work together to control the situation,” he added.
The premier warned that although the drones may not have launched attacks on Cambodia yet, many countries had experience of drones that could drop explosives, fire weapons or even conduct “suicide” attacks.
“With this in mind, we must take this threat to our sovereignty seriously,” he explained.
Hun Sen also publicly declared that there is an absolute ban on posting national security issues on social media.
“We will not allow anyone to do so without the express permission of the military. National security concerns are no small matter. These drones flew over Ratanakkiri province, but originated outside of Cambodia,” he said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a June 28 statement on the matter.
“The incursion of drones into Cambodian airspace constitutes a blatant and intolerable violation of the Kingdom’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said.
It added that the government is closely monitoring developments related to the recent incidents that occurred in Dak Lak province, Vietnam. It declared that it considered the attacks carried out by armed insurgents on police bureau in Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur communes in Vietnam as acts of terrorism, which posed significant threats to the safety and stability of its “friendly neighbour country”.
“In the spirit of unwavering adherence to upholding the principles of sovereignty and the prohibition of the use of Cambodian territory by any hostile armed group against a friendly neighbouring country, Cambodia is actively collaborating with Vietnamese authorities and armed forces to preclude any future reoccurrences,” it stated.
In the aftermath of these events, Cambodia has received reports from the authorities and armed forces along the provinces bordering Vietnam, particularly Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri, regarding frequent encroachments into Cambodian airspace by unidentified drones.
“These flights, which began on June 27, appear to be perpetrated by an unidentified armed group, and represent a blatant and intolerable violation of Cambodian sovereignty and territorial integrity,” added the statement.
“The Cambodian government has exercised its right to self-defence and taken firm and proportionate military measures to thwart any future incursions into Cambodian airspace. Once the origin of these drones is determined, the government will undertake legal and diplomatic actions to register its strong protest against such encroachments on Cambodia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it stressed.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that as a sovereign state, Cambodia has the right to take any necessary measures to defend itself against any intrusion over its borders, whether by land, water or air.
“Our neighbouring countries have denied that the drones belong to them. Therefore, we need to take the proper steps to resolve the issue or destroy the drones. If these violations of the Kingdom’s sovereignty continue and no one claims responsibility, Cambodia needs to notify the UN secretary-general and the chair of ASEAN about the case and demand a thorough investigation,” he said.
“This is also important to avoid any misunderstandings that may arise if Cambodia is forced to deploy and fire weapons in areas near the border,” he added.
He noted that Cambodia has asked its neighbours for cooperation as the drones were also a threat to their national security.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered troops to employ a “sky net” strategy to shoot down any drones whose operators have the temerity to overfly Cambodian territory. He also announced a $200,000 reward to any unit that can down a drone and discover where it had come from, noting that drones had been entering the Kingdom’s airspace for nearly a week.