Gov’t Vows To Destroy 233 Missiles

Following a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and US Ambassador Charles Ray on cooperation against terrorism, the government announced Tuesday that it soon will destroy 233 surface-to-air missiles.

Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh said Tuesday that the A-72 missiles, supplied by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, were no longer useful for securing the country and only posed a risk.

“It is good to eliminate [the missiles] and to prevent any use by terrorists. If they went missing by accident and they were used anywhere, we would be accused of selling them,” Tea Banh said.

The missiles were not even employed during Cambodia’s past conflicts, he added. “Even though we had them, we never used them at all during the war.”

Tea Banh said destroying the missiles would not be detrimental to Cambodia’s security. “Even though we destroy [the A-72 missiles], we still have others to defend the country,” he said.

“We do not say what kind of [defense] system we have or how modern it is, because this is a defense secret,” he added.

A three-star RCAF general, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the country’s arsenal includes stockpiles of surface-to-surface missiles, which he listed as BM-12s, BM-13s and BM-21s.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith agreed that the A-72 missiles were of no more use to Cambodia.

“It is not beneficial to keep this missile because this missile cannot shoot the fighter jets. It can only shoot helicopters and

passenger planes, so we should not keep it,” Khieu Kanharith said.

“Some countries are scared that we cannot control these missiles and they will cause problems. In response to this, we decided to destroy them,” he continued.

A US Embassy spokesperson said Tuesday that the US welcomed the destruction of the missiles, but did not know which countries were concerned about their security.

The spokesperson denied knowing details of the destruction arrangement, saying the process was up to the Cambodian government.

A statement from the Ministry of Information said that the US will send “experts” to prepare for the missiles’ destruction.

Khieu Kanharith also said that the surface-to-air missiles posed a large threat to Cambodia’s developing tourism sector. “If someone wants to damage Cambodian tourism, they will use [the missiles] to shoot a plane, then Cambodia’s tourism will suffer.”

Security officials were caught unaware in early October by reports from the Thai government that claimed surface-to-air missiles were being trafficked into Thailand from a neighboring country.

Thai Interior Minister Wan Muhamad Noor Matha told reporters on Oct 1 that six such missiles had disappeared from a neighboring country’s munitions dump.

According to Agence France-Presse, Tea Banh said at the time that Cambodia did not have missiles. “We have never exploited weapons. We only destroy them,” he told AFP.

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