A Change of Guard

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Thursday, 11 August 2016

Indonesia, Cambodia discuss defence cooperation

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu (centre) arrives at Phnom Penh International Airport on Tuesday for a three-day official visit to the Kingdom. Hong Menea

Indonesia, Cambodia discuss defence cooperation
Thu, 11 August 2016 ppp
Shaun Turton and Vong Sokheng

Indonesia is willing to offer Cambodia’s navy ships at a discount and would like the Kingdom to be involved in joint patrols in the region, Indonesia’s Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu yesterday told the Post, amid his meetings with government leaders.

Ryacudu, a retired general, met with Prime Minister Hun Sen and his defence counterpart, Tea Banh, as part of a regional tour, which will see him next head to Singapore.

According to Banh, who spoke to reporters following their hour-long meeting, the two discussed a new defence cooperation agreement between the countries, which will include increased military training and potential weapons and uniform sales.

“[We] will move to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between Cambodia and Indonesia’s defence ministries in all sectors of defence,” Banh said.

According to Indonesia’s Defence Attache office, the MoU would allow Indonesia to train soldiers from all Royal Cambodian Armed Forces branches.

Since 2012, Indonesia has trained about 200 Cambodian troops – including from the 911 Brigade and National Counter Terrorism Special Forces – under the Army to Army Talks (ATAT) agreement. The new programs followed the end of a six-month commando training course offered to the Kingdom’s special forces.

Taking roughly 20 soldiers a year to Indonesia, the program offers courses covering sniper, anti-terrorism, military diving, climbing and sky diving tactics.

The country also sends advisers to Cambodia to train the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit.

The Defence Attache office added that the planned MoU will allow Indonesia to sell weaponry it produces to Cambodia.

In an interview yesterday at the Cambodiana Hotel, Ryacudu said he would also float the proposal of selling Cambodia warships so it could cooperate more closely with Indonesia’s naval operations, particularly joint patrols in the northern South China Sea.

“We have our own shipyard, it is quite capable and we already produce ships which have been bought by the Philippines, so that’s something that we would like to offer to Cambodia, if they would like to buy,” Ryacudu said.

“We would like to sell to them at a special price, like a friendship price.”

Reached yesterday, Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said though Cambodia needed new warships, its budget was limited.

He also said that he had no further information on intentions to acquire two Chinese frigates announced by Banh in February.

According to documents obtained by the Post, Cambodia currently has a small fleet of slightly over 20 vessels, including four Stenka class and two Turya class Soviet-built vessels and eight Chinese-built patrol boats.

According to a source with intimate of knowledge of the Cambodian military, the navy lacked the money, and trained personnel, to handle more advanced vessels.

“Their capacity is very rudimentary,” said the source, adding that at least four of the Soviet-built boats are considered unseaworthy.

Under its global maritime fulcrum policy, Indonesia is pushing to become a leader in naval security.

The country is among the most influential in the ASEAN bloc, which has been split by the divisive South China Sea dispute, particularly after a decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which dismissed most of China’s claim to the waters.

Tensions were further raised yesterday after Reuters reported that Vietnam had deployed mobile rocket launchers on disputed islands in the Spratly group.

Though it does not have a direct rival claim, Indonesia has clashed with Beijing over fishing rights near its Natuna islands. Many of its neighbours, however, have competing claims.

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