Cambodia, China to Kick Off Annual Joint Military Exercise Amid Waning Western Influence
Op-Ed: Radio Free Asia Khmer
Cambodia’s Defence Minister Tea Banh (L) speaks to China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe (2nd L) during a visit to a military exhibition in Phnom Penh, June 19, 2018.AFP
Cambodia and China will kick off preparations for their third annual joint “Golden Dragon” military exercise on Feb. 28, Cambodia’s National Defense Ministry announced Wednesday, highlighting improved ties between the two countries as Western influence in the Southeast Asian nation wanes.
In a post to his Facebook account, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Chhum Socheat said that more than 250 Chinese and 2,500 Cambodian military personnel will attend the drill, held at the Chum Kiri Military Shooting Range Training Field in Kampot province’s Chum Kiri district.
After two weeks of rehearsals, the 15-day exercise will begin with a March 13 opening ceremony attended by Royal Cambodian Armed (RCAF) Commander-in-chief General Vong Pisen and end with a March 27 closing ceremony overseen by Defense Minister General Tea Banh, the post said.
“This military exercise reflects the government’s stance that the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces implement the national defense policy between Cambodia and China and for cooperation in all sectors,” Chhum Socheat said.
“This drill will also focus on exchanging experience in humanitarian and natural disaster rescue operations, as well as combatting terrorism and peacekeeping.”
According to Chhum Socheat, the exercise will involve “important military equipment” including armored trucks, tanks, and helicopters, as well as artillery and mortars.
This year’s Golden Dragon exercise is the third and largest joint Cambodia-China military drills to be held on Cambodian soil since Cambodia’s Defense Ministry abruptly suspended annual “Angkor Sentinel” joint exercises with the U.S. military and abandoned counter-terrorism training exercises with the Australian military in 2017.
The government had claimed it was too busy preparing security for commune elections in June last year to take part in the exercises, but they have yet to be reestablished.
Washington, D.C., February 26, 2019 |Congressmen Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) and Steve Chabot (OH-01) today introduced bipartisan legislation requiring the Trump Administration to review the preferential trade treatment that Cambodia receives from the United States.
The Cambodia Trade Act (CTA) would require the Administration to review Cambodia’s preferential trade status under which it is allowed exemptions or reductions to tariffs on goods it exports to the United States. However, the thirty-four-year regime of Prime Minister Hun Sen has been accused of serious labor and human rights violations, as well as actions to undermine the nation’s path toward democracy by attempts to abolish any political opposition or dissent.
“The regime of Hun Sen has steadily dismantled what was the burgeoning democracy of Southeast Asia,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “He has undermined the will of the people, subverted the promise of free and fair elections, and wielded power with the iron glove of a dictator. Intimidation, threats, violence, and even murder, are the tools of his regime. He and his regime must pay a price for their role in destroying the rule of law and violating the basic freedoms of the Cambodian people.”
The CTA would also require the Trump Administration to use the findings of the review to reach a decision on whether Cambodia’s preferential trade privileges should be withdrawn, suspended, or limited.
“As I have said repeatedly in the past, Prime Minister Hun Sen must be held accountable for uprooting democracy in Cambodia,” Congressman Chabot said. “Cambodia continues to receive preferential trade status when dealing with the United States while he continues to trample on the rights of his people. In light of his actions, it is time for us to reevaluate this special treatment.”
Cambodia currently receives preferential trade treatment under the General System of Preferences (GSP). Under the GSP program, specific products from recognized developing countries can enter the United States duty-free. Cambodia received the preferential status in 1997 and Cambodia currently exports more than $180 million a year in goods to the U.S. duty-free under the program. The U.S. last renewed Cambodia’s GSP status in April 2018.
Last month, Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Chris Coons (DE) introduced identical legislation in the Senate.
The European Union, citing human rights violations by Hun Sen’s regime, has also begun a process to suspend their own preferential trading status granted to Cambodia.