China has pledged to give Cambodia an additional $100 million in military aid following a visit to the country this week by Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe.
Wei reportedly met with his counterpart, General Tea Banh to discuss the funding, according to General Chhum Socheat, a Cambodian defense spokesman.
“Both sides continue to strengthen ties of friendship with each other to grow stronger, especially now our Chinese friends have offered additional grants amounting to 645 million Yuan [$99.5 million] to Cambodia for the military sector in accordance with our needs,” Socheat wrote on his Facebook page.
He told VOA in an interview that defense officials were making plans to spend the money over the coming years, adding that the two countries had also agreed to continue their joint military drills, known as the Golden Dragon exercises.
Wei was visiting Cambodia on a five-day trip during which he is also due to meet with other senior military officials, including Lieutenant General Mao Sophan, commander of Brigade 70, an auxiliary unit close to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Cambodia’s military, in particular, elite divisions including Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit, has been accused of gross human rights violations and grand corruption since the former Khmer Rouge commander came to power more than 30 years ago.
Local media reports in Cambodia suggested that Sophan had requested China provide Brigade 70 with equipment to construct a live-fire training ground.
Wei was also due to meet Hun Sen during his five-day visit, which ends on Wednesday.
Em Sovannara, a political analyst, said China-Cambodia relations had reached an all-time high, partly due to a souring of relations with the west.
“It’s good for Cambodia to have ties with China, but ... the ties between Cambodia and China must be transparent and acceptable for the people,” he said. “Cambodia should not be seen to be overly influenced by China.”
He added that Cambodia should also look to shore up relations with the United States and European Union, both major buyers of Cambodian garments and other products.
The U.S. and E.U. have both imposed limited sanctions on Cambodia in recent months after the government oversaw the dissolution of the country’s main opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, ahead of a general election in July.
“Cambodia has not abandoned the United States because Cambodia really needs the United States and European Union, for instance, for its reputation on the international stage, it needs strong support from the western world,” Sovannara said.
Joint military exercises with China have been ongoing since 2016, while the Angkor Sentinel exercises previously held with the United States were canceled.