Minister of National Defence Tea Banh is due to lead a senior Cambodian delegation to the 13th Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Bangkok from Wednesday to Friday at the invitation of Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Prawit Wongsuwan.
A Ministry of National Defence press statement dated Saturday said the meeting was expected to discuss the challenges Asean faces in promoting sustainable peace, security and stability in the region.
Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat told The Post on Sunday that Asean defence leaders would also discuss transnational crime and many other topics.
“We express our happiness to take part in attempting to maintain security and peace in our Asean region and ensure global security and peace as a contribution to developing the nation and the region,” Socheat said.
Kin Phea, the director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post on Sunday that Cambodia played an important role in the security of the region.
He said the dispute over the South China Sea was worrying as it involved competition between two of the world’s superpowers – China and the US.
Phea said the US seemed to fear losing the freedom to navigate the oceans, which was a major concern.
“The worrying matter is that they are likely to address the South China Sea issue. That is a clash between two superpowers and our country’s input is small."
“It’s right that they should bring the matter up, but it is an issue that seems to divide Asean and is controversial, with countries leaning towards the US or China,” Phea said.
He said the two Asean members with most at stake in the South China Sea are Vietnam and the Philippines, and Asean would need to pay heed to the issue because it could spoil relations. Perhaps the defence ministers could examine the possibility of bilateral talks, Phea said.
On his Facebook page, Banh also said on Monday that all troops must continue to be properly trained on a regular basis so they are prepared to defend the nation, even though Cambodia already enjoys complete peace.
Royal Academy director Phea said that regarding the defence of the nation, Cambodia’s capacity and military equipment were still limited.
“If we travel along the Cambodia-Vietnam border and the Cambodia-Thai border, perhaps we can make a comparison and see that we are still far away. We are not ready to fight. When it comes to our weaponry, we see it is still very much lacking,” Phea said.
The Ministry of National Defence said on its Facebook page last Thursday that the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) had been trained this year at schools and various locations throughout the country.
It said the RCAF was in control and capable of defending its borders and islands, and positive cooperation had taken place with neighbouring countries.