Cambodia will upgrade its arsenal with Czech military hardware through the purchase of L-39 “Albatross” training jets, Prime Minister Hun Sen said after a bilateral meeting with Czech counterpart Andrej Babis on Monday.
“I would like to confirm that Cambodia had already bought six L-39 jets before. This morning, I discussed the possibility of buying three or four new L-39s to be used as patrolling jets.
“I hope that the Czech Republic, which is an old friend and close ally of Cambodia, will continue to support the Kingdom as it travels down the path of democracy in a peaceful and sustainable manner without disruption.
“I also wish to thank the Czech Republic, which once again came forward to support Cambodia in the EU framework.
“I hope that other countries in Europe will treat Cambodia as fairly as [Babis],” he said, as he thanked the Czech government for its continued support for Cambodia in the European Parliament.
Hun Sen said he would happily welcome the Czech prime minister to Cambodia at an appropriate time so that the two leaders can exchange ideas to bring bilateral relations between the countries to “a new level”.
He left the Kingdom on Sunday for state visits to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria – all of which can veto the decision to withdraw the Kingdom’s ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) agreement.
Babis hailed Cambodia’s economic development and promised to improve relations and cooperation in all sectors, especially in trade and national defence.
He pledged to support Cambodia ahead of the EU’s decision on whether to withdraw, keep or limit the EBA agreement.
Cambodia’s access to EBA, which sees lower tariffs placed on the vast majority of the Kingdom’s exports to the 28-member bloc, was worth some $5.8 billion last year and is currently under review.
The Kingdom is currently under a monitoring period, with the European Commission set to present its final report in a few weeks time.
“With regards to EBA withdrawal by the European Commission, the Czech Republic holds the view that the [preferential tariff system] is a very important tool and Cambodia has a positive stance regarding human rights.
“We believe that the EU will discuss this issue and we will resolve it,” Babis said.
Ministry of National Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat was unable to comment on the price of the jet purchase, but told The Post that they were necessary “to defend territory and the nation”.
International Relations Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia director Kin Phea told The Post that he believes the Kingdom needs to strengthen its military in the wake of regional and international security developments.
The L-39 jet, with over five-million flying hours, is the highest-selling jet-powered training jet in the world, according to website globalsecurity.com. It is deployed by the militaries of Russia, Vietnam, Thailand, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria among others.
“A [solid] national defence foundation and the purchase of the jets will only serve to protect the nation.
“Other countries in the region have strongly developed their defence strategies, so we must also dare to spend some of the national budget to strengthen the capacity of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
“The Czech Republic has a realistic assessment of Cambodia and the EU. Their views could be the basis for the EU’s EBA decision,” Phea said.
Former Supreme Court-Dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Ou Chanrath expressed hope that the jet purchase would improve the Kingdom’s defence capabilities and Czech-Cambodia relations.
However, he said that the Czech Republic could rarely sway the EU’s decisions.
“Buying weapons is crucial to maintaining security and territorial integrity. It is completely normal and forges closer relations between countries.
“However, Eastern European allies of Cambodia can’t ensure positive results either politically or economically,” Chanrath claimed.