The sixth China-Cambodia ‘Golden Dragon’ joint military exercises will focus on counter-terrorism and humanitarian work, and are not intended to threaten or affect any other nations, explained Thong Solimo, spokesman for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

“They will provide an opportunity to exchange experience and strengthen security in both countries, as well as the region,” he said on May 13, while welcoming several Chinese People’s Liberation Army Naval vessels to the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

The joint drills will be held from May 16 to 30 at Pnom Chum Rik Reay in Kampong Chhnang province and also in Preah Sihanouk province.

A total of 2,075 military personnel will join the exercises, including 1,315 members of the RCAF and 760 members of the Chinese military.

The land exercises will utilise 69 armoured vehicles and several other vehicles, as well as intelligence gathering, explosive ordnance disposal and communications equipment. 

In addition, 14 military vessels (including three from China) and two helicopters will take part in exercises at sea. Upon the completion of Golden Dragon, the Chinese forces will return home, said Solimo.

While focused on counter-terrorism and humanitarian, the use of drones will also be a feature of the training.

 “The purpose of these drills is to build on the previous five times the two sides have conducted the exercises. We want to learn from each other. They will also strengthen security and the prevention of terrorism in both countries, as well as the wider region,” explained Solimo.

“There is no desire to intimidate or affect any other nation,” he said, adding that members of other ASEAN countries would monitor and observe the nature of the exercises.

Regarding accusations that Cambodia only conducts exercises with China, Solimo responded that people have the right to comment, but noted that the Kingdom acts in accordance with the demands of its own government policies, as well as international law.

“Cambodia would not refuse any request to hold exercises. Cambodia welcomes all countries, but requests for military drills must be granted in advance,” he said.

In addition to the exercises with China, Cambodia conducts regular military cross-training with neighbouring countries like Vietnam and Laos, with a focus on disaster relief work, he noted.

This year’s exercises are larger than previous ones, and have also been expanded to include naval manoeuvres.

Solimo called for the public to be aware of the exercises, and not to be startled by the temporary Chinese military presence.