Due to lack of resources, Cambodia will not take part as planned in naval exercises simulating the seizure of weapons of mass destruction set to take place in Japanese waters next week as part of the US-backed Proliferation Security Initiative.
Battleships and aircraft will practice the search and seizure of missiles and other WMD components, according to media reports. It will be the first simulation held in Asia under the Proliferation Security Initiative, a multinational program started by the US under President George W Bush.
“The reason that we cannot participate is the condition of our ships,” said Major General Soun Samnang, director of the Cambodian Defense Ministry’s international relations department. “We cannot sail to Japan.”
According to media reports, Australia, France, the US and Japan were scheduled to take part, with some 18 nations observing.
The large ships in the Cambodian navy are eroded or obsolete, still afloat but able to do little else, Soun Samnang said. The navy hasn’t had a functional slipway, a requirement to get the ships out of the water and into repair facilities, since the 1970s.
Soun Samnang estimated that would cost $1 million to repair the slipway. “We have some limited resources to repair [ships] one by one, but how can we do that when the ships are still in the water?”
He added that Cambodia’s military vehicles and aircraft face similar degeneration due to budgetary constraints. “We have the human capability to operate in terms of defending our natural resources along the coastline…by using small patrol boats to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies,” he said. “But the activities are very limited.”
China and South Korea backed out of next week’s exercise without official explanation.