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China Hands Off Military Vehicles in Aid Package

China on Tuesday delivered a military aid package that included 257 vehicles to replace a distribution the US canceled after an expulsion of Uighur asylum seekers last year. Officials said the aid delivery was a routine part of bilateral ties between the two countries.

Among the delivery were 200 transport trucks, 30 cars for commanders, 20 military ambulances, five mechanic’s vehicles and two trucks for the transport of heavy armor.

“I believe our Cambodian friends will be able to use these trucks for the interest of economic and social development,” said Chi Wanchun, political commissar of the general armaments department of the People’s Liberation Army, who is on an official visit to Cambodia.

Moeun Samphan, secretary of state for the Cambodian Ministry of Defense, said at a handover ceremony the trucks would be used for “the army and for national defense.”

The delivery was announced earlier this year, after the US suspended the delivery of some 200 military vehicles in response to the December deportation of 20 Uighur Muslim asylum seekers, who had fled their home province on Xinjiang after waves of violence there last year.

Moeun Samphan declined to comment on the halt of US trucks, but said Cambodia needed the vehicles.

Tuesday’s delivery was part of an increase in military aid from China, at a time when Cambodia and Thailand are engaged in a protracted military standoff at the border near Preah Vihear temple. Earlier this year Cambodia test-fired a battery of short-range missiles, many on trucks brought from China.

Some observers have warned that China’s aid, which comes without some of the human rights benchmarks often attached to Western packages, could come at a price.

“We welcome aid without conditions from all countries, but the government must be balanced between the aid and respect for human rights,“ from Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the government does need military aid, especially in the dispute with Thailand, but it also needs aid for infrastructure, investment and economic development.