Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cambodia Boosts Army With Tanks, Fighter Vehicles

Cambodia is buying dozens of new tanks and other combat vehicles to boost its military, the foreign ministry said Sept. 15, as a deadly border dispute with Thailand rumbles on.

The pro-government newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea reported that 50 new T55 tanks and 44 armored personnel carriers are set to arrive in the country next week.

Military officials could not be reached for comment, but foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong confirmed that Cambodia had purchased a number of tanks and fighting vehicles and said further shipments would follow.

"We will have many more" than 94, Koy Kuong said.

He said Cambodia would not pose a threat to anyone with its new military hardware - despite a long-running border fight with Thailand, a spat that has claimed the lives of several soldiers on both sides.

"We have purchased this equipment in order to strengthen our military capacity to defend territorial integrity and to prevent any intentional invasion from another country," Koy Kuong added.

He would not confirm how much Cambodia is paying for the new military equipment or from where it is coming.

Cambodia has about 124,300 armed forces, according to 2010 data from the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London.

Compared to Thailand with its 300,000-strong armed forces and well-equipped air force, Cambodia has much less military muscle than its neighbor, a situation it has been trying to improve in the wake of the border dispute.

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in a troop standoff at their border since July 2008, when the ancient Preah Vihear temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand.

The Thai-Cambodia border has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

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