On Thursday, South Korea delivered 222 military vehicles to Cambodia in an effort to help the Southeast Asian state strengthen its defense capabilities.
Chao Phirun, chief of the Cambodian defense ministry’s Technical Material Department, confirmed that Seoul had delivered 208 military trucks and 14 engineering vehicles to Phnom Penh. The handover ceremony was held at the Techo Hun Sen Military Technical Institute in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province and was attended by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Tea Banh and South Korean Deputy Defense Minister Kang Byung-joo.
South Korea’s defense relationship with Cambodia is nothing new. According to Phirun, this was the third time that Cambodia had received military aid from South Korea, with previous deliveries coming in 2010 and 2012. He also added that 145 vehicles, two patrol boats and eight engineering vehicles would arrive separately from South Korea in July.
Military visits had continued on through the course of 2016, with the most notable one being that of Hwang In-moo last June who was the highest South Korean defense official to visit the country (See: “South Korea Vice Defense Minister Visits Cambodia, Laos“). There were also ongoing conversations between the two governments about further rounds of military assistance.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, Kang said that Seoul had granted 22 types of military vehicles and military engineering machinery to Cambodia since 2010 and expressed his hope that the recent delivery would help strengthen the relationship and enhance the capacity of the Cambodian military.
With Cambodia set to hold commune elections this year and national elections in 2018, the delivery raised concerns in some local media outlets about whether the equipment could also be used by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to crack down on opposition in the country in the name of preserving peace and prosperity.
The Cambodia Daily quoted Tea Banh as saying that “if anyone wants to start to make chaos or any revolution, then this equipment will join all our units.” But he also added that the donated equipment would not be used directly on the government’s political opponents since there were other ways to deal with them.
“Please don’t worry about the personal issues,” Banh was quoted as saying. “We have laws to implement against those people.”