The reheating allegations on possible Chinese naval base in Koh Kong province, Cambodia, is nothing but a warmongering prophecy. It shows no sign of receding and one can foresee such media attack against Cambodia to loom large in the run-up to the upcoming ASEAN-related meetings.
Recently, on 9 May 2019, US-based media War on the Rocks published article entitled “Hiding in Plain Sight: Chinese Expansion in Southeast Asia.” They wrote, “It appears long enough to support military aircraft and matches the length of the runways built on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea to support military reconnaissance, fighter and bomber aircraft.”
On 14 May 2019, Australia-based Lowy Institute published article entitled “Hun Sen’s natural bilateral “bestie””. They argued that, “As a client state, Cambodia will ultimately have to grant China military access when it asks – and it will.”
Tracking back the records, the first allegation came to light through the article by the Asia Times published on 15 November 2018, which was the same day with the 6th ASEAN-United States (US) Summit in Singapore.
This was not a coincidence but rather a synchronized attack on Cambodia to consolidate public perception that Cambodia is China’s vassal state and that it is being militarized by the latter.
The Ministry of National Defence has repeatedly denied the allegation. Assurances were also given by Cambodia’s top leader. In three separate occasions, Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly denied the allegation. First was his written response to the letter sent from Vice President Mike Pence in November 2018. Another two public statements were made in the presence of China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou and Chinese Ambassador on 22 March 2019 and 1 March 2019 respectively. “Even if the Chinese wanted to control us Cambodia, we would not allow them to…I am talking this in the presence of the Vice Foreign Minister of China. We have seen clearly that China has no goal of putting a control on anyone,” said Hun Sen.
For all those war-mongering prophets, they should look for lessons from the Vietnam War and Iraq War.
Lessons from Vietnam War were real personal experiences of Cambodian leadership and Cambodia as a whole.
In March 1969, President Richard Nixon authorized the deadliest bombing raids in Cambodia as he believed that Cambodia provided military facilitation for the Viet Cong soldiers to transport troops and supplies. While the exact number of Cambodian casualties remains unknown, most experts estimate that 100,000 Cambodians lost their lives, with an additional two million people becoming homeless.
The legacy of war is still fresh. Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) is struggling every day to remove landmines and unexploded ordnances that take the limbs and lives of Cambodian people every year even if the war already ended.
Cambodia learned a very bloody lesson from Vietnam war and has no reason to inflict such history on its own people and future generations to come. This firm determination was clearly pronounced by Hun Sen who said that he would never again allow “foreigners to fight one another on Cambodian territory” or make “Cambodia to be a place for ideology or weapon experiment.”
Lessons from Iraq War holds rationale more on the US side. The war-mongering pundits rely only satellite photos in making allegation against Cambodia and they seemingly hold a religious belief that such evidence-based confirmation is real, verified and indisputable.
They all sounded like the supposedly dovish former Secretary of State, Collin Powell, who tried to justify Iraq War to save the world from the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) at the United Nations Security Council on 5 February 2003. He was so convincing that everyone tacitly approved war action and no justice was sought for the Iraqi peoples despite that his testimony was later found as false.
Beside the lessons from Vietnam and Iraq wars, it remains unclear as to why the existence of the US military bases around the world should be exempted from scrutiny by those war-mongering pundits.
Author of the book entitled “Base Nation”, David Vine wrote on Politico (July/August 2015) that, “Despite recently closing hundreds of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad… Britain, France and Russia, by contrast, have about 30 foreign bases combined. By my calculation, maintaining bases and troops overseas cost $85 to $100 billion in fiscal year 2014; the total with bases and troops in warzones is $160 to $200 billion.”
David Vine also demonstrated that, the overseas bases raise geopolitical tensions and provoke widespread antipathy towards the United States. They also undermine American democratic ideals, pushing the U.S. into partnerships with dictators and perpetuating a system of second-class citizenship in territories like Guam. They breed sexual violence, destroy the environment, and damage local economies.
On 24 January 2018, Alice Slater, the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, published on The Nation about the impact of the US’s military bases. She wrote that, “From Agent Orange in Vietnam, depleted uranium in Iraq, and munitions dumps and firing ranges in Vieques, Puerto Rico, to a toxic brew of poisons along the Potomac River, communities and soldiers as well as children born subsequent to exposure to these toxins are suffering a broad range of illnesses and inherited genetic damage, while the US government ducks any accountability for the harm caused by its mindless dumping and reckless burial of untreated toxic military wastes.”
The war-mongering pundits have to come to their senses of humanity and take up the Vietnam War and Iraq War to re-evaluate their religious belief in regards to allegation against Cambodia. Unless they would truly like to see another war happened in Cambodia so that they can be pleased that their prophecy is being realized.
The quote from the Academy Award winning director, Oliver Stone, could sum up all the above. “It’s the fact that we have it (atomic bomb), we are the indisputable nation, because we have proved that we’re willing to blow up anything, to go that final mile, and we’ve maintained military full-spectrum dominance of the world…If we can get away with this behaviour in Iraq–and no one in our country has any sense of shame or guilt or apology about it, in the same way we have no shame or guilt or apology about Vietnam–it’s only because of the bomb…Might makes right, and at the end of the day you get very arrogant when you have might on your side.”
Doung Bosba is a Cambodian Analyst based in Phnom Penh