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China to provide $84M grant to strengthen Kingdom’s military

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Minister of Interior Tea Banh attends the 9th Beijing Xiangshan Forum on Tuesday. TEA BANH VIA FACEBOOK

China to provide $84M grant to strengthen Kingdom’s military

China will grant the Kingdom 600 million yuan ($84 million) as it continues to support the strengthening of the Cambodian military, Minister of National Defence Tea Banh said on Wednesday.

The aid is to upgrade equipment and improve training, in what was described as comprehensive Chinese assistance in response to Cambodian military deficiencies.

Banh led a delegation of high-ranking Cambodian military officials to the 7th Military World Games sporting event in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. During the five-day visit that ended on Tuesday, he discussed regional security issues with China’s Minister of National Defence Wei Fenghe.

In addition to attending the Military World Games, Banh also joined defence ministers from 23 countries at the 9th Beijing Xiangshan Forum.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday at the Phnom Penh International Airport upon his return from China, he said the Chinese grant, which will be used to enhance the country’s military capabilities, demonstrated the strengthening of cooperation between Cambodia and China.

“We have an important agreement – China will grant 600 million yuan to the Cambodian military, which we will use to increase military capacity. We will continue our cooperation, which is unwavering. We reaffirmed the continuation of existing operations as we continue to further strengthen cooperation,” he said.

Banh told The Post that China continued to assist Cambodia in strengthening the Kingdom’s defensive capabilities. He said the Ministry of National Defence had used the funds to address deficiencies, including procuring advanced equipment for the military, improving training and developing infrastructure.

“We are strengthening all areas as we upgrade our defensive capabilities to the next level. We have a lot of shortages and a lot of needs, so it is not just about equipment.

“We use the assistance to address deficiencies, including in training and infrastructure development, as well as the construction of schools and hospitals, and improving the facilities at health centres,” Banh said.

Regarding the suspension of annual military exercises between Cambodia and the US and a decline in military relations, Banh said this would be difficult when assistance came with conditions.

“[The Chinese] are dedicated fully to helping us address our deficiencies, enabling us to move forward.

“If [the US] helps us partially and then demands something else, it makes it difficult for us to follow them. It is normal to cooperate when there is agreement on both sides, and we have to follow this agreement.

“But if cooperation comes hesitantly and requires Cambodia to do this or that, we cannot do that. That is why we have had to postpone some things,” Banh said.

Separately, RCAF deputy commander-in-chief General Ith Sarath on Wednesday welcomed a Chinese People’s Liberation Army delegation led by Special Colonel Zhang Yuan Song to discuss preparations for next year’s joint Golden Dragon military exercises.

“The live-fire field at the Techo Sen Chumkiri Training School in Kampot province’s Chumkiri district, where we held the drills last year, is a good location for the Golden Dragon exercises,” Sarath told Zhang.

Zhang thanked Sarath, who is the chairman of the 2020 Golden Dragon organising committee, for the discussions on next year’s exercises to ensure they would be as successful as previous years.

RCAF General Command spokesman Thong Solimo said next year’s Golden Dragon exercises would be held in March, with 2,000 Cambodian soldiers and more than 200 Chinese troops taking part.

The events would focus on counter-terrorism, hostage freeing and natural disaster rescue drills, so that the Kingdom’s soldiers can fulfil their duties on UN peacekeeping missions and as part of UN engineering teams, he said.

“There are no major changes for the forces to take part in the exercises . . . Armoured vehicles, artillery and mortars are to be used, as well as helicopters and air support weapons,” Solimo said.

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