The first US funding awarded to the Cambodian military in nearly a decade will be used for non-lethal equipment and training, US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said.
About $670,000 in funds committed during the 2006 fiscal year will be used for articles such as medical and communication equipment, and protective gear for border security units of the Cambodian military, Daigle wrote in an e-mail last week.
Another $300,000 will be used for trucks, spare parts and training, he added. For the current fiscal year, US funding for the Cambodian military is expected to be around $475,000, he said.
Chum Sambath, undersecretary of state for the Defense Ministry, welcomed the US decision to award military aid without, he said, too many conditions.
“We need assistance without strings attached,” he said. “If it had strings attached, we would not accept it.”
Pang Savan, director of the Defense Ministry’s department of international relations, claimed Wednesday that the US has decided to fund RCAF directly because RCAF does not belong to any political party and respects human rights.
Daigle, however, said the Cambodian military became eligible for direct US funding after Cambodia agreed not to send US nationals to the International Criminal Court and after the US State Department lifted Cambodia’s ranking in its anti-human trafficking report in June.
The shift in US policy has alarmed some rights groups. Local rights organization Licadho found that nearly 40 percent of the 172 human rights abuses it documented in the first half of 2006 were perpetrated by the military, military police, or the police.
“We are very careful to vet all Cambodian military personnel,” US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said. “We strictly abide by the Leahy amendment and make sure they and the units they work for are not human rights violators.”
That amendment prohibits US funding for units of foreign security forces known to have committed gross violations of human rights.