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US, Cambodia meet to discuss military ties

Ros Chanveasna / Khmer Times Share:
General Neang Phat (L). and Joseph Felter. Supplied & defense.gov

A Defence Ministry official yesterday said a two-day meeting is taking place between General Neang Phat, a secretary of state with the Defence Ministry, and Joseph Felter, United States deputy assistant secretary of defence for South and Southeast Asia.

“Today at 10am, Mr Felter met with Gen Phat to speak about defence policy and cooperation,” Major General Buth Rum said on Facebook yesterday.

In a statement, the US embassy said the meeting will continue today and include discussions on several matters, including the future of US-Cambodia military relations and former opposition leader Kem Sokha, who remains on bail while facing treason charges.

“[The officials] will discuss a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and how a productive military-to-military relationship can help Cambodia maintain its sovereignty […] for future generations,” it said.

At one point, Cambodia and the US held joint military exercises, but joint-training stopped in 2017.

General Ith Sarath, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, at the time said it was because of a campaign against drugs.

However, many have speculated that the joint exercises with the US were stopped due to worsening relations between the two nations.

The US embassy said Mr Felter hopes to discuss the current status of Mr Sokha, who was jailed after he was accused of colluding with the US.

“He will then discuss a path forward for enhancing military-to-military cooperation, when the Cambodian government makes progress on strengthening institutions and implementing reforms, including dropping all charges against Kem Sokha and allowing civil society and media to operate freely,” it said.

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