China and Cambodia kick off Golden Dragon 2019 exercise

On 13 March, thousands of Cambodian and Chinese soldiers descended upon a 10,000-hectare training area in Kampot Province, southern Cambodia, to kick off the largest-ever joint military exercise between the two nations, as Ben Sokhean reports in the Khmer Times.

China and Cambodia kick off Golden Dragon exercise
During the 15-day Golden Dragon 2019 exercise, 252 Chinese soldiers will train side-by-side with 2,542 Cambodian soldiers (Picture source: Khem Sovannara)

Dubbed Golden Dragon, the opening ceremony displayed troops in full combat gear against a backdrop of tanks, armored personnel carriers and attack helicopters. RCAF commander-in-chief General Vong Pisen and China’s Major General Feng Xiang arrived in the morning to inspect weapons, armored vehicles and other military equipment before upcoming live-fire drills.

Since joint military exercises began with China in 2016, the drills have gotten bigger and bigger. “It will be bigger than any other year,” National Defense Minister General Tea Banh said, adding that the exercise aims to strengthen the two countries. It took weeks of preparation to get to this stage. Thousands of men had to be moved and stationed, and scores of heavy artillery and equipment had to be transported, Ben Sokhean reports. Gen. Tea Banh says that this year, costs are partly taken in charge by China: “They help us with supplies such as gas and ammunition. If others are willing to help us like this, then we are happy to conduct military exercises alongside them,” he says, adding that Cambodia has not had a military exercise with the United States: “The US, they help us with nothing. We are not sure when exercises with them will resume.”

According to the National Defence Ministry, forces began moving tanks, helicopters and other heavy vehicles and equipment to Kampot province’s Chum Kiri district last week. Ministry spokesman General Chum Sucheat says during the 15-day exercise, 252 Chinese soldiers will train side-by-side with 2,542 Cambodian soldiers. The ministry said military exercises are to be carried out until March 27.

Two weeks ago, RCAF army commander Lieutenant General Hun Manet spent five days in China in order to bolster relations. He met top Chinese military officials such as Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and commanders such as General Han Weigu and General Xu Qiliang, Ben Sokhean reports.

Army spokesman Brigadier General Mao Phalla says Lt Gen Manet’s visit was also to discuss the “Golden Dragon”. In China, Gen Han praised Sino-Cambodian relations. “I hope China and Cambodia will continue to strengthen relations and cooperation under the strategic direction of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen to ensure the development of comprehensive cooperation between two countries,” Gen. Han said.

China and Cambodia kick off Golden Dragon 2019 exercise 2
Official inauguration of Golden Dragon 2019 exercise in Kampot province (Picture source: Cambodian MoD)