Angry Hun Sen orders US weapons destroyed

Angry Hun Sen orders US weapons destroyed

Cambodian leader hits back at arms embargo imposed amid concerns over rights, China ties

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen gestures during a news conference at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Sept 21. (AFP File Photo)
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen gestures during a news conference at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Sept 21. (AFP File Photo)

PHNOM PENH: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the country’s military to destroy US weaponry or dump it in warehouses on Friday, after Washington imposed an arms embargo over human rights concerns and Phnom Penh’s close ties with China.

Washington announced the embargo on Wednesday, citing concerns about human rights and corruption in the country 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 Hun Sen downplayed the quality of the US weapons and equipment on Friday.

“I order all army units to immediately review arms and military items that Cambodia currently has,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “(We) must recall all US arms and military items if there are any — put them in warehouses or destroy them accordingly.

“[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 longtime leader, who heads a one-party government after facing no meaningful opposition in the last election, is one of China’s closest partners in Asia. His government has been dismantling facilities at the Ream base that were built partly with American money and had hosted US military exercises.

The base near Sihanoukville 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.

Hun Sen has repeatedly denied his country would host the Chinese military at the base, while acknowledging that Chinese help was sought to upgrade the facilities.

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.

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