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Two attack ships to protect oil and fisheries

Two attack ships to protect oil and fisheries

T he Kingdom's naval defense capabilities will receive a significant boost when

two Soviet-built, fast attack patrol boats return from being overhauled in

Malaysia at the end of September.

The two refurbished "Modified Stenka"

class sea-going craft will return to Cambodia's naval base in Ream "in the next

few weeks", according to a government official who asked not to be

named.

The 170-ton ships were towed to the Hong Leong Lurssen Shipyard in

Butterworth, Malaysia in August, l994 where extensive repairs were done,

including installing new diesel engines made by Caterpillar of the U.S., the

re-fitting of new hulls and repairs to the vessels' electrical systems.

On Aug 30, Cambodia's National Asembly approved a loan of $14.2 million

to cover the costs of the repairs.

In arguing approval for the loan,

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said the ships would be used to beef up the

Kingdom's ability to protect its territorial waters.

Chhon said the

country was losing between $10 to $15 million a year due to illegal fishing in

Cambodian waters.

He added that the Stenkas would also be used to provide

security to oil companies drilling offshore.

A Malaysian embassy

spokesman said the quasi-governmental Bank Industri Malaysia would be making the

loan to the Cambodian government, although details of the terms were not

available.

According to a western defense analyst, the cost of the Stenka

refit was estimated at $3 million per vessel.

The source speculated that

Malaysia may also be providing additional used or new patrol boats to the

Cambodian navy as part of the deal which would account for the difference in the

actual costs involved and the amount of the loan requested by the Cambodian

government.

As well, it is understood that Malaysia was to provide

training for two commanders and an unspecified number of crewmen.

The

Royal Cambodian Navy has four Stenkas which were donated by the former Soviet

Union in 1984 to the then People's Republic of Kampuchea.

The ships were

originally equipped with four 30mm twin machine guns and four 406mm torpedo

tubes, although it is unclear what the current state of the Stenka's military

hardware is.

The other two Stenkas are still afloat at the Ream naval

base near the port of Sihanoukville, although no plans are in the works to

improve their seaworthiness.

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