PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodian leader Hun Sen ordered the country’s military to destroy any US weaponry or dump it in warehouses on Friday (Dec 10), after Washington imposed an arms embargo over human rights concerns and Phnom Penh’s close ties with China.
The United States on Wednesday imposed an arms embargo on Cambodia, citing concerns about human rights and corruption in the South-east Asian nation as well as China’s activities there.
The actions taken by the US State and Commerce departments aimed to restrict access to “defence articles and defence services” by Cambodia’s military and intelligence agencies, according to a statement.
But Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen downplayed the quality of US weapons and equipment on Friday.
“I order all army units to immediately review arms and military items that Cambodia currently has. (We) must recall all US arms and military items if there are any – put them in warehouses or destroy them accordingly,” he said in a Facebook post.
“(The US arms embargo) is a warning message to the next generation of Cambodians who lead the government that if they want an independent defence sector, please don’t use US weapons.”
“A lot of those who use US arms lost wars,” the Cambodian strongman said, citing Afghanistan.
In November, Washington sanctioned two Cambodian officials for corruption allegations linked to a US-funded naval base.
Cambodia’s long-time leader is one of China’s closest partners in Asia, and his government has been dismantling facilities at the Ream base that were built partly with American money and hosted to US exercises.
The Sihanoukville-base on the Gulf of Thailand has been a running sore in US-Cambodia relations in recent years, with Washington suspecting it is being converted for use by China.
Mr Hun Sen has repeatedly denied his country would host the Chinese military at the base.
Beijing has been increasingly exerting territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea, raising tensions with numerous Asian nations, but Cambodia has increasingly appeared to be an ally.