The Ministry of National Defence reported robust security cooperation in the past nine months, highlighting several military drills and peacekeeping missions, as well as participation in regional and global forums.

According to an October 2 report from the ministry, Cambodia conducted two joint military exercises this year: Golden Dragon 2023 and Peace Angel 2023, both in collaboration with China. The Kingdom also recently concluded the Humanitarian Mine Action Field Training Exercise under the ASEAN+ framework, with the participation of 14 nations. In addition, Cambodian peacekeepers continue to be deployed on UN missions abroad.

Cambodia has also partnered with neighbouring countries bilaterally to combat cross-border crimes. On the domestic front, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) have been active in upholding public order, safeguarding territorial integrity and ensuring sovereignty on both land and sea. Additionally, the RCAF has combated various crimes – including those against natural resources – and provided security protection for national leaders and visiting international dignitaries.

Seun Sam, a policy analyst at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, commended the ministry’s diplomatic efforts. However, he pointed out a significant oversight in its communications regarding the development of the Ream Naval Base.

“The international community consistently expresses concerns about a Chinese military presence in Cambodia. The ministry should offer more clarity about the base, especially given the increasing scrutiny from Western media,” he said.

Political analyst Em Sovannara noted that while Cambodia received praise earlier in the year for condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its diplomatic vigour seemed to wane in the latter part of the year. He acknowledged the Kingdom’s strong ties with China but sensed strains between certain ASEAN nations and Western countries.

“In today’s geopolitical climate, foreign defence strategies must be adaptable, maintaining neutrality between the East and West. This balance is crucial for Cambodia to sustain its economic and trade interests,” he said.