The Ministry of Defense has begun transporting 233 surface-to-air missiles from every province to a warehouse at an undisclosed location, co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath said this week.
The missiles will be destroyed soon, officials say, as part of an agreement with the US government that could net Cambodia $233,000.
“Those missiles are very old and we need to destroy them,” Prince Sirirath said. He said the Ministry of Defense will discuss the time frame for destroying the 233 A-72 missiles, supplied by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The date and location have not been confirmed.
“We have to find a remote place to destroy the missiles because we don’t want the sound to disturb the people,” Prince Sirirath said.
The US has promised technical support, said embassy spokesperson Heide Bronke, but the details of destruction are up to Cambodian authorities. Prince Sirirath said officials from the US Defense Department are working with the ministry on plans for destruction.
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said the Ministry of Defense will decide when to destroy the missiles.
“These are not firecrackers,” he said.
Prince Sirirath said diplomats will be informed and asked to participate in a ceremony once the details are worked out.
US Ambassador Charles Ray wrote Dec 19 in a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen that Cambodia could receive money for its cooperation in destroying the missiles. The letter came two days after a meeting between the premier and the ambassador and was prompted partly, Ray wrote, by Cambodia’s cooperation with a US inspection team. The money, however, depends upon US congressional approval, which could come as early as the end of this month. Bronke said it is unclear if and when the funds will come.