Cambodia buying 'tens of thousands' of Chinese weapons: Hun Sen

Cambodia buying 'tens of thousands' of Chinese weapons: Hun Sen

Cambodian officials gave the media unprecedented access to the Ream naval base in a bid to rubbish
Cambodian officials gave the media unprecedented access to the Ream naval base in a bid to rubbish reports of a deal allowing China to use the facilities AFP/TANG CHHIN Sothy

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia has purchased weapons from China to modernise its military, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday (Jul 29), providing rare details of arms deals with Beijing just days after denying a secret agreement to allow Chinese warships to use a local naval base.

"I ordered the purchase of tens of thousands of additional weapons," he said, without explaining what the country had bought. "Now they are being shipped."

"I want to strengthen the army," the prime minister said in a speech broadcast live on Facebook.

Hun Sen said US$40 million had been spent this year on top of a total amount of US$290 million in previous arms deals with China.

He was speaking during a trip to the construction site of a Chinese-funded stadium in Phnom Penh that he called a gift from President Xi Jinping.

China has lavished billions of dollars in soft loans, infrastructure and investment on Cambodia, which has tilted away from the United States amid Hun Sen's increasingly authoritarian rule.

The Southeast Asia nation's military ties with China have also come under increased scrutiny after concerns expressed by the US and a report - denied by Hun Sen - of a secret deal to allow Chinese forces to use a Cambodian naval base.

The Wall Street Journal last week reported on a draft deal letting China access Ream base near Sihanoukville to dock warships and store weapons.

Cambodia tried to knock down the report on Friday by taking dozens of reporters on an unprecedented tour of the base.

Prime Minister Hun Sen repeated the denials in his latest remarks and called the news "slander". 

The Ream base under scrutiny is strategically located in the Gulf of Thailand and gives ready access to the disputed South China Sea.

The US embassy in Phnom Penh has questioned the possible hosting of foreign military assets there.

Source: Agencies

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