Defence Ministry denies Chinese naval base rumour

The Defence Ministry has once again denied allegations made in a report saying that Cambodia is allowing China’s Union Development Group to construct a military base in Koh Kong province.

On May 9, US-based media War on the Rocks published “Hiding in Plain Sight: Chinese Expansion in Southeast Asia”, on its website.

In the article, it said that China is building a naval base in the Kingdom, an allegation government officials have always denied by saying that according to the constitution, no foreign armed forces will ever be stationed in the Kingdom.

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The article said that despite repeated denials, satellite imagery shows that UDG is building a port long enough to support military vessels and aircraft.

“Recent commercial satellite imagery shows that Union Development Group, a Chinese-owned construction firm, has been rushing to complete a runway in Cambodia’s remote Koh Kong province on the southwestern coast,” it said. “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 Saturday, Defence Ministry spokesman General Chhum Sucheat reiterated on Facebook that the allegation was wrong due to the Kingdom’s constitution.

“The article on this site is ill-willed, causing the world to be confused about Cambodia,” Gen Sucheat said. “It is attempting to disrupt the country’s cooperation with foreign investors. It affects potential tourists.”

He added that Prime Minister Hun Sen had already made it clear that Cambodia will not allow foreign military bases to be constructed, and that the constitution will not be changed to facilitate any decision to allow it.

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However, Gen Sucheat noted that Chinese investors bring plenty of capital into the Kingdom.

“The development of the Dara Sakor vacation resort in Koh Kong province, in which billions of dollars were invested by Chinese companies, is contributing to the promotion and development of tourism, the economy, and trade in Cambodia,” he said, adding that Cambodian citizens are happy that Chinese investors are confident about Cambodia’s stability.

Koh Koh Provincial Governor Mithona Phouthorng could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, she said in November that her province did not have a Chinese naval base.

Allegations of a Chinese naval base in the Kingdom have also made Cambodia’s ally Vietnam concerned.

In December, Mr Hun Sen assured Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc that the government will not allow a foreign military base to be established.

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“I confirm that the constitution of Cambodia does not allow any foreign military bases in the Kingdom, nor does it allow Cambodian armed forces to go abroad outside of the United Nations’ framework,” Mr Hun Sen said. “If this propaganda continues, it will not only be an issue for Cambodia, but also neighbouring countries. I hope these evil rumours will cease.”



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