PHNOM PENH - Cambodia received 12 military utility helicopters from China on Monday, during a handover ceremony at an air force base outside of Phnom Penh.
The Harbin Z-9 helicopters—a Chinese version of a French design—can be used for humanitarian missions and to help in natural disasters, Chinese Ambassador Pan Guangxue said at Monday’s ceremony.
The donation underscores Cambodia’s ongoing military relationship with China, which has emerged as a top donor to the country.
The helicopters arrived at Preah Sihanouk province in September, where Cambodian soldiers trained on them prior to the handover, military officials said.
Cambodia’s defense minister, Tea Banh, said the helicopters could also be used to protect border security and for defense against “those who want to try to destroy national security and the sovereignty of the country.”
Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said he does not believe the helicopters were donated to “destroy” internal conflicts.
“I don’t believe the government would be stupid enough to use its armed forces to crack down on democratic protesters,” he said of the helicopters.