Cambodian army gets rid of US-made weapons in favor of Chinese ones

According to The New Straits Times, Cambodia is reviewing whether its military has any US-made weapons or equipment and will either store or destroy them. The move follows the U.S. decision to impose an arms embargo on the country on December 9, citing "deepening Chinese military influence in Cambodia [that] undermines and threatens regional security" as well as alleged "corruption and human rights abuses".
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The Cambodian army is becoming exclusively dependent on Chine-made equipment (Picture source: via Phnom Penh Post)

The Phnom Penh Post reports that Prime Minister Hun Sen had responded to the embargo by directing the Cambodian military to put all US-made arms and military hardware into storage in warehouses or just destroy them outright. He said it demonstrated the wisdom of his decision in 1994 (in UNTAC time) when he chose not to change the military's weapons systems over to US models. Hun Sen then quipped that armies equipped with US-made weapons tend to lose wars, pointing at Cambodia's defeat in 1975 to Khmer Rouge, which came about despite the US supporting the then government with weapons shipments. Hun Sen noted that those weapons imports ran up a huge debt to the US that remains on the country's books to this day despite multiple other regimes having governed Cambodia since then. "Even recently, the losers of the war in Afghanistan used US weapons", Hun Sen said.

Defense Minister General Tea Banh told The Phnom Penh Post that there were a moderate number of US-made weapons in the country but they were all imported in the early 1970s: "Yes, there are still US-made weapons here because they were brought into Cambodia during [former PM] Lon Nol's time and it was a lot of weapons. If we're just talking about the bombs they dropped from air, there were millions of tonnes of them. "Back when Lon Nol finally lost the war, there were still a huge amount of US-made weapons in different warehouses and other places stored across the country. But most of them would be too old to be used by now," he said.

Some equipment such as military vehicles had been donated by the US during the last decades, though there was not much of it in current use.

Meanwhile, political analyst Lao Mong Hay said: "Such vehement and mocking responses aren't dignified in character and won't improve the image of our nation or its leaders in the wider world. The relationship between Cambodia and America will not get any better with responses like that and it could cause further negative fallout to ensue, including sanctions against commercial entities or suspension of Cambodia's preferential trade status".

Notice that, besides Hun Sen's hostility toward the U.S., his eldest son Hun Manet is a lieutenant general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), and the commander of the Royal Cambodian Army since 2018. He also leads his father's personal bodyguard unit and the nation's counterterrorism task force. Although he does not currently hold any political offices, Manet is a member of the Cambodian People's Party Standing Committee, the party's decision-making body, and is the head of its youth wing. Manet grew up and received his general education in Phnom Penh and later joined the armed forces in 1995, the same year he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. Having received his diploma in 1999, Manet became the first Cambodian ever to graduate from the prestigious academy. He has been mentioned by both media outlets and Hun Sen himself as a "candidate" for prime minister.

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Turning to Chinese-made equipment does not prevent Cambodian military delegations from visiting other countries' defense exhibitions like Army-2018 near Moscow and Kubinka, for instance (Picture source: Army Recognition)