Navy Purchases 9 Chinese Boats To Protect Oil Thai Gulf

Cambodia has purchased nine Chinese patrol boats to police the Gulf of Thailand and protect the country’s offshore oil assets, officials said October 26.

The new Chinese vessels are to arrive in Cambodia in early Novem­ber, Defense Ministry Deputy Secretary-General Nem Sovath said October 26.

“They are for patrolling sea areas that have oil and to prevent maritime crimes,” he said, adding that he was unsure of the vessels’ cost.

“The sale was at a proper price,” he added.

Contacted by telephone, De­fense Minister Tea Banh would only confirm the boats’ acquisition, saying he was too busy to comment. “The boats will come soon,” he added.

The boats are believed to have a total value of $60 million and were acquired following a signing ceremony this week in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, Reuters news agency reported October 25.

China last provided Cambodia vessels in 2005 with a donation of six patrol boats, collectively valued at $1 million, to the Interior Min­is­try. Officials at the Chinese Embas­sy Friday referred questions back to the Cambodian government.

Cambodian Navy Commander Ung Samkhan could not be contacted Friday however the Defense Ministry announced in August that it intended to triple the size of the navy in order to protect Cam­bo­dia’s future oil installations in the gulf.

A source familiar with the plan said at the time that Cambodia intends to increase the number of sailors from 1,000 to 3,000.

It remains unclear when oil ex­traction could begin however officials have acknowledged that Cambodia’s naval fleet is small and poorly maintained.

The Defense Ministry in 2004 de­clined an invitation to participate in joint naval exercises in Japanese waters, saying that Cambodia’s ships were too eroded to make the journey. In 2003, officials said only a third of Cambodia’s 12 Soviet-built Stankar-class ships were seaworthy.

(Additional reporting by Doug­las Gillison)

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