Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday reiterated that the government will not allow any foreign military base to be built in the Kingdom except under tasks from the United Nations.
Mr Hun Sen’s comments came after a report published by Asia Times last week said that China has been lobbying the government since last year for a port in Koh Kong province on the Gulf of Thailand to be used as a naval base.
During a Council of Ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen yesterday said that he will write a letter to US Vice President Mike Pence regarding Cambodia’s stance, reaffirming that the constitution will not let any foreign navy, armed forces, or air forces to be stationed in the country.
“You cannot use Cambodia as an ideological testing ground or weapons testing ground. I consider all countries in the world as development partners in term of economic and diplomatic issues,” Mr Hun Sen said.
“Why does Cambodia need a foreign military? Does Cambodia wage battles against any country? Cambodia is capable of protecting its independence and sovereignty. There is no need to have foreign military stationed for assistance,” Mr Hun Sen said.
“Whom do we fight with? Do we fight with our own people, Thais, Vietnamese, or who else?” he asked.
The site of the alleged naval base is thought to be within a 45,000-hectare concession in Cambodia’s southwestern Koh Kong province, near the Thai border opening onto the Gulf of Thailand, Asia Times reported.
After the report was published, both the Foreign Affairs and Defence ministries denied its claims.
Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn told US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan during a meeting in Singapore last week that the country’s constitution would not allow the construction of any foreign naval base in the Kingdom.
Mr Sullivan had raised concerns over the report, noting that it would affect bilateral relations between Cambodia and the United States if it were true.
The Defence Ministry then issued a statement denying the report on Sunday, in which its spokesman General Chhum Sucheat called the Asia Times report “fake news intended to mislead the public”.
“The ministry would like to dismiss the Asia Times’ report,” Gen Sucheat said. “It’s meant to incite and affect the reputation of Cambodia’s defence sector.”
Mr Hun Sen yesterday added that Cambodia welcomed and hosted military drills under mutual cooperation in preparation for response to terrorism or natural disasters.
“Cambodia wants to make friends with other countries across the globe. The Cambodian military must not partake in any foreign military cooperation unless it is set up under the United Nations’ umbrella,” he said.