Lost Inside Cambodia: Phnom Penh Orders Destruction, Mothballing of All US Weapons

© REUTERS / StringerArmy vehicles are seen along a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Army vehicles are seen along a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.12.2021
The United States slapped an arms embargo on Cambodia on Wednesday, citing alleged deepening Chinese military influence over Phnom Penh, as well as unspecified corruption and human rights abuses. The sanctions follow separate restrictions against two senior Cambodian military officials issued in November.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered his country’s armed forces to immediately recall all US weapons and equipment from service and either destroy or mothball them.
In a post on Facebook Friday, the prime minister sarcastically “thanked” the United States for the restrictions, saying they proved the correctness of his decision in 1994 “not to change the existing Cambodian weapons systems to buy US weapons systems.”
“I would like to issue an order to all armed units to immediately review the weapons and military equipment that Cambodia currently has to collect all US military weapons and equipment, if any, to store it or take it and destroy it,” Hun Sen said.
“Those who used to use American weapons systems lost wars, such as during the Khmer Republic of Lon Nol, who used American weapons systems and imported a lot of weapons to Cambodia, making Cambodia indebted [to the US],” the prime minister added, referring to the 20th century Cambodian strongman who overthrew the country’s monarch in 1970 and fled to the United States in 1975, when Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge.
FILE - In this April 17, 1975 , file photo, a Khmer Rouge soldier waves his pistol and orders store owners to abandon their shops in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on as the capital fell to the communist forces - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.11.2018
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“More recently, US weapons users have lost the war in Afghanistan. I believe in the courage and fighting spirit of the fighters defending Cambodia’s territorial integrity, rather than on weapons alone,” Hun Sen said, adding that “if you want to be independent in the field of defence, do not use American weapons.”
Washington slapped Cambodia with an arms embargo on Wednesday, citing the country’s warming relations the Chinese military, human rights abuses and corruption. The ban affects “defence articles and defence services” used by Cambodia’s military and intelligence agencies. The sanctions follow the imposition of restrictions against two senior Cambodian military officials in November over their alleged role in a scheme to profit from the construction of the US-funded naval base at Ream.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a Washington-based think tank, published satellite photos in October showing what it said was major new Chinese construction at Ream, as well as the demolition of some US facilities based there. Cambodia and China began enhancing their security cooperation in 2019, prompting the US State Department to express “serious concerns” about Beijing’s alleged military presence in the Southeast Asian nation. In June, a minor diplomatic spat blew up after US defence attache Marcus Ferrara walked out of a tour of Ream after being denied full access to its facilities.
 Over the course of August and September, three new buildings have gone up and a new road has been cleared at Cambodia's Ream Naval Base, where concerns over possible Chinese military access linger amid Beijing-backed construction - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.10.2021
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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Cambodia and other Southeast Asian nations in September to promote the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. Phnom Penh has subsequently ratified the agreement, which promises to unite 30 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of global GDP into a single common market.
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