Cambodia and China Ink Aid, Trade Deals

A loan for Cambodia to purchase military helicopters is included in the agreements

Prime Minister Hun Sen and a visiting top Chinese official on Sat­urday presided over the signing of 29 letters and memoranda covering a broad range of business and military deals, including a $195.5 million loan for Cambodia to purchase Chinese-made military helicopters. 

A summary of the deals provided by the government offered few details about any of the projects signed by the premier and Zhou Yongkang, who sits on the standing committee of the Communist Party of China’s powerful Political Bur­eau. It also makes no mention of how many helicopters Cam­bodia would buy with the $195.5 million loan, identifying the crafts only as Z-9s.

The Z-9 military utility helicopter is a licensed model of the Euro­pean-made Eurocopter AS 365N Dauphin II, which is de­signed for transport and utility, at­tack or anti-submarine warfare, according to the independent UK-based website sinodefence.com. According to the website, the Z-9 helicopters can carry up to 10 armed soldiers and have a maximum range of 1,000 km.

Officials at the Ministry of Fi­nance, who signed off on the helicopter deal, either declined to comment yesterday or could not be reached. Defense Ministry spokes­man Chhum Sucheat and the commander of RCAF’s air force headquarters, Ul Navy, said they were un­aware of the deal.

China has in recent years become Cambodia’s largest foreign investor, though the government offered no figures on how much Saturday’s deals were worth in total.

China has also increased its military assistance to Cambodia in recent years.

In May 2010 Beijing delivered 257 military jeeps, trucks and ambulances, replacing 200 military vehicles the US had recently canceled in protest of Cambodia’s deportation of 20 Uighur asylum seekers back to China in 2009.

Quick on the heels of the deportations, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping arrived in Phnom Penh with $1.2 billion in interest-free loans.

Several of the deals unveiled on Saturday appeared to be for projects already announced and in the works.

They included plans by Royal Group subsidiary Cam GSM to launch Cambodia’s first satellite into space by early 2013, a project estimated to cost anywhere from $250 million to $400 million.

Royal Group chairman Kith Meng signed a concession license to operate the satellite with the government in April.

According to the agreements signed Saturday, Cam GSM will partner in the project with China’s Huawei Technologies, one of the largest mobile telecommunications infrastructure providers in the world.

Mr Meng declined to comment on the project yesterday, saying it was still in its preliminary stages.

The deals with China also include Inner Mongolia Erdos Hongjun’s partnership with the Cambodia International Investment Development Group to establish a coal-fired power plant in Preah Sihanouk Province and a bauxite mine in Mondolkiri. Hongjun’s president signed off on the $3 billion package of deals with Mr Hun Sen nearly a year ago in Phnom Penh.

In several leaked US Embassy cables released recently by the anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks, US officials noted the Chinese habit of “recycling” previously announced aid donations and re-presenting them for major diplomatic visits. During a 2006 visit, for example, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao announced a $600 million aid package that the US Embassy dismissed as “old news.”

Other projects signed off on Saturday included a rice mill, agriculture laboratory and various road renovations.

 

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