Today is the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Cambodian Army and a parade of tanks, heavy weapons and thousands of soldiers is expected to be held at its headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Por Senchey district.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, a five-star general, and his wife Bun Rany are expected to attend the parade with RCA commander Lieutenant General Hun Manet.
The parade is to be held just three weeks after Mr Hun Sen inaugurated the Win-Win Monument, considered a symbol of Mr Hun Sen’s achievements and peace. The monument was inaugurated on the 20th anniversary of the end of the Cambodian civil war.
Phnom Penh authorities and military officials have been preparing for the parade since last week. They’ve issued several statements informing the public that armoured vehicles and troops will be moved across residential areas.
Mr Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit has been moving equipment and vehicles, including tanks and other armoured vehicles, from its headquarters in Kandal province to the capital for today’s parade in Por Senchey district.
RCA headquarters spokesman Major General Mao Phalla yesterday said this will be the first celebration since the branch was established precisely two decades ago.
“There will be thousands of troops and hundreds of military combat equipment and vehicles shown during this parade because it will be the biggest military event ever,” Maj Gen Phalla said. “It’ll be the first in 20 years since the creation of this command happened.”
He added that troops involved in the parade arrived in the capital on Sunday and have been preparing for the show.
RCA broke off from the High-Command Headquarters in January 24, 1999. It was first led by General Meas Sophea until he was replaced by Lt Gen Manet last year.
With the motto “defending the Kingdom of Cambodia”, the RCA is a branch of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, currently led by commander-in-chief General Vong Pisen who replaced General Pol Saroeun last year after the latter became a lawmaker.
According to the RCA website, the army has jurisdiction in six regional bases across the country, including the special region of the capital.
In October, Mr Hun Sen hinted that Lt Gen Manet could be named as his successor.
“In the CPP, there is no power struggle and our country is democratic,” Mr Hun Sen said at the time. “I do not know the fate of my son. If he is elected, he can be Prime Minister. I do not want my son to be involved in politics, but we cannot ban him from doing so.”
Paul Chambers, a political analyst and lecturer in Thailand’s Naresuan University, on Tuesday said Mr Hun Sen may be relying on the army to maintain stability.
“Regarding the increased size of the military celebrations this year, I think this reflects the fact that the Prime Minister increasingly relies on the military,” Mr Chambers said via email.
“The celebrations also coincides with the 40 years that a Cambodian military has existed not under the control of the Khmer Rouge.”
Lt Gen Manet, 41, graduated from West Point in 1999 and earned a PhD in economics at the University of Bristol in 2007. He previously led the Defence Ministry’s anti-terror unit.
In September, Defence Minister General Tea Banh issued a directive to transfer five special military units to RCAF, under the jurisdiction of Lt Gen Manet.
These five units include General Srey Doek’s RCAF second division, Lieutenant General Keo Thy’s third division, Lieutenant General Prum Pheng’s first intervention brigade, General Chap Pheakdey’s 911 paratrooper brigade and General Mao Sopha’s brigade 70.
On Tuesday, Gen Banh said the first parade of the RCA will be grand in scale.
“Normally, when an anniversary is celebrated, it would reflect the development of the country,” he said. “For this anniversary celebration, we will do what reflects reality – it has to be bigger than other events. It’s because our country has developed, so we must reflect this.”
“The most important thing is that we need to remind the public of our culture and show the strength of our forces,” Gen Banh said.
Defence Ministry spokesman General Chhum Sucheat yesterday said the Kingdom’s military was moulded from a communist-style military and reformed into a democratic-style military after the Paris Peace Accords in 1991.
Gen Sucheat noted today’s parade will also celebrate peace.
“We are ready to celebrate it; we want to congratulate Royal Cambodian Army on its development,” he said.