To prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, the Ministry of Defense is destroying 36 Soviet-made, surface-to-air missiles during a special ceremony planned for Friday, officials said.
The ministry started destroying its cache of 36 SA-3 missiles at the RCAF Armor Center in Kompong Speu province on Nov 4, and all the missiles will have been destroyed by the end of the month, said Chao Pirun, director general of the ministry’s technical and materials department.
“We don’t need to keep them because we are now at peace,” he said on Sunday. “There is no more war. We destroy them to avoid allowing them to be used for terrorism.”
About half the launcher-fired missiles, which Chao Pirun said can travel up to 18 km, will be destroyed at the center during a ceremony, which is expected to be attended by US officials, including US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli.
The surface-to-air SA-3 developed by the Soviet Union is fired from a fixed-position launcher to destroy aircraft, cruise missiles and assault helicopters flying at low and medium altitude, according to the Web site GlobalSecurity.org.
Chao Pirun did not say when Cambodia obtained the missiles but said that their launchers were destroyed during the UNTAC period.
One neighboring country had expressed an interest in buying the missiles, he said, but “the government has no policy to do this.”
The US State Department provided training to the RCAF personnel who are decommissioning the missiles, said US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle.
Peacetime Cambodia no longer requires such weaponry, he added. “[The missiles] are not useful to Cambodia.”
Stockedpiled, Daigle said, “they could fall into the hands of terrorists.”
Last year, RCAF destroyed all 233 of its portable Strela-2, surface-to-air missiles with assistance from the US government.
The destruction ceremony to mark the occasion had some ducking for cover when one missile—of a dozen or so being fired into the ground—worked its way loose from a mounting and flew over the heads of visiting diplomats, landing about 400 meters away.