Cambodia Breaks Ground on Ream Shipyard Amid Grumblings

3 min read
The groundbreaking ceremony for a new ship maintenance facility at Ream Naval Base, posted to Defense Minister Tea Banh’s Facebook page on June 8, 2022.

Amid U.S. reports alleging Cambodia is giving space to the Chinese military at the Ream Naval Base, Defense Minister Tea Banh on Wednesday inaugurated construction on a major ship-maintenance facility there.

While acknowledging that Cambodia had recently received significant arms from China, Banh said the country simply welcomed support from donors without choosing favorites.

The new shipyard facility in Preah Sihanouk province would be able to undertake maintenance for ships weighing 5,000 tons, Banh said.

“All ships traveling at sea, when they break down or experience any problems that require repairs, there is currently no place to repair them,” Banh said. “This is an important thing that we had sought strongly, and it has nothing to do with other issues besides seeking safety for ships.”

Fishers could also use the facility, he said, adding that dredging in the bay should also help with naval capabilities.

Defense Minister Tea Banh points out new self-propelled SH-1 howitzers acquired by the Royal Cambodian Army to Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian in a photo posted to Banh's Facebook page on May 28, 2022.
Defense Minister Tea Banh points out new self-propelled SH-1 howitzers acquired by the Royal Cambodian Army to Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian in a photo posted to Banh’s Facebook page on May 28, 2022.
One of the self-propelled SH-1 howitzers shipped to the Royal Cambodian Army, posted to Defense Minister Tea Banh’s Facebook page.

“Cambodia will continue to increase the RCAF’s capabilities to protect its sovereignty and territory and fulfill other obligations effectively, like antiterrorism, cross-border crimes, disaster rescues and peace operations.”

On May 28, Banh posted photos online of inspecting a range of armored vehicles alongside Chinese military officials.

“Cambodia has received donations from the friend, such as modern heavy armor and now we are in the training process,” Banh said. “Cambodia will continue to take donations from countries that are friends.”

“Cambodia has no policy to pick one country to oppose another country,” Banh continued. “For the development of the army’s capability, cambodia still continue to welcome and open to support from friend countries without taking discrimination trend.”

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn also issued a statement saying reports of Cambodia building a facility for the exclusive use of the Chinese navy were “groundless.”

U.S. news media, citing anonymous sources, said China was “secretly building a naval facility” at Ream. The U.S. Embassy said on Wednesday that if true, a Chinese military presence at Ream “could threaten Cambodia’s autonomy.”

Defense Minister Tea Banh and Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian swim in the Gulf of Thailand on the Sihanoukville coast in a photo posted to Facebook on June 7, 2022.
Defense Minister Tea Banh and Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian swim in the Gulf of Thailand on the Sihanoukville coast in a photo posted to Facebook on June 7, 2022.
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