Last week, representatives from the navies of both Vietnam and Cambodia met for another iteration of their ongoing meeting to discuss what both sides have designated as joint patrols. The interaction offered a glimpse into one manifestation of defense realm of the relationship as both sides commemorate their 50th anniversary this year.
Vietnam-Cambodia ties are longstanding and Hanoi continues to factor prominently in Phnom Penh’s foreign relations today; one rhetorical manifestation of this being the continued references in official statements to Hanoi’s role in overthrowing the Khmer Rouge in 1979 which paved the way for the current regime led by Prime Minister Hun Sen in 1979 (albeit with a more positive spin focused on saving Cambodia from the genocidal Pol Pot regime). Ties are maintained not only at the national level, but also between local authorities and groups in managing more sensitive areas of the relationship such as resolving outstanding border issues.
This year, the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, along with the lead-up to Cambodia’s general elections next year, has given an additional impetus to strengthening ties, with several high-level visits and progress in some areas of cooperation across the economic, security, and people-to-people realms advanced under the banner of Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Year 2017.
Defense ties have not been immune from this broader trend, even though both sides tend to be publicly more muted about security challenges like settling outstanding disputes over their shared 700-mile long border. An example of defense relations between the two sides is the maritime collaboration they have tried to forge to better manage challenges in surrounding waters, among them being the problem of illegal fishing. Both sides have held joint patrols focused on several basic areas such as search and rescue and communication in order to build trust and cooperation as well as to improve the level of coordination.
Last week, both navies held the 24th iteration of their meeting on joint patrols, with the interaction being co-chaired by Commander of Vietnam’s Naval Region 5 Rear-Admiral Pham Manh Hung and Commander of the Cambodian Ream Naval Base Ouk SeyHa. The objective of this meeting, which was held in Phu Quoc district in the southern Vietnam province of Kien Giang, was to discuss the outcome of previous joint patrol and opportunities and challenges in the maritime space of both countries.
Unsurprisingly, few additional specifics were publicly disclosed about the interaction on Vietnamese state media beyond the fact that both side examined future opportunities for collaboration including more twinning activities for their navies. The 49th and 50th joint patrols as well as the 25th iteration of the meeting on them are expected to proceed as scheduled.