The airport “not the landing base in China”

Prime Minister Hun Sen (center, wearing a sky blue shirt), a host of government officials and other attendees pose for photos during the Prime Minister’s visit to Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport Sunday. MPS

Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned critics to refrain from viewing the new airport in Siem Reap province as part of China’s strategic capacity building, as he reiterated Cambodia’s constitutional clause that prohibits the presence of foreign soldiers on the territory of the Kingdom.

Hun Sen made the remark while inspecting the construction progress of Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport on April 3.

“I want to impress upon all analysts that they should not regard this airport as China’s landing base. Don’t bother with analytics like this. If they [China’s military] want to land, they can even land at Pochentong [Phnom Penh International Airport]. Don’t be skeptical – they can land wherever they want if they start military operations,” Hun Sen said sarcastically.

Scheduled to be completed in March 2023, Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport has been funded by a capital investment worth $880 million. Located in Ta Yek commune of Sotr Nikum district, construction of the airport began in March 2020 with over 1,000 workers, 70% of whom are Cambodians.

The construction was announced by the spokesperson for the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation as “22% complete”.

“I hope all analysts don’t see Siem Reap International Airport as part of China’s effort to build capacity overseas and in Cambodia…Don’t make such a crazy analysis. Cambodia does not need foreign military, we only need foreign visitors,” he said.

“Cambodia is not ‘ignorant’ enough to let foreign military build their base on its territory because it is unconstitutional. Cambodia does not even allow [foreign] military advisers, but allows military attachés [stationed in foreign embassies].

“For what reason would we allow Chinese troops or other foreign troops to be based in our country?” he asked. “Military attachés agree, but foreign troops are not allowed. Foreign soldiers can only be here as a military attaché.

The prime minister noted that whenever there is construction of an airport with Chinese support, “some analysts” always remark that the facility is primarily for Chinese military use.

Content Image - Phnom Penh Post

Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport under construction on Sunday. MPS

“I don’t think analysts will go too far [in their careers]. Whenever they see that we have projects with China, they always say it’s just for [use of] Chinese troops.

“Some of these analysts are Cambodian. Others are foreigners. Either way, it seems like they’re getting dumber and dumber,” he said. “If we are talking about military strategy, why not [Chinese military] simply land at existing airports? »

Hun Sen also hit back at critics who said Dara Sakor International Airport in Koh Kong province was built to “receive” the Chinese military.

“Are you crazy? If they need it, why don’t they just land at Kong Keng airport [in Preah Sihanouk province] right now? It would be easier for them,” he said. “You just have to think about it a bit. If you want to slander us, then realistically any airport in Cambodia can receive Chinese military personnel.

The construction of Dara Sakor airport in Koh Kong province and the upgrade of Ream naval base in nearby Preah Sihanouk have come under international criticism, with critics and even US officials alleging that Cambodia has granted exclusive rights to China to maintain a military presence there. . But Cambodia noted that it has repeatedly denied these allegations and will stand firm in their denial.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s Institute of International Relations, said Hun Sen’s remarks during his airport visit showed his frustration at the “baseless accusations” that have been leveled at him. occasion, alleging that Cambodia allows foreign military presence in the Kingdom.

He said that however clearly Cambodia explained it, the suspicions about the foreign military base did not appear to have been dispelled.

“The suspicion about Chinese military bases in other countries is a message that has been prepared to prevent any attempt by China to expand its military base in Southeast Asia. It is actually the United States [concocted] scenario.”

“It’s a geopolitical game between China and the United States. The United States is speaking out to prevent such suspicions from becoming reality. Whether it’s true or not, it’s just a preventative measure,” he said.

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