The government needs to purchase patrol ships from China to fight piracy, terrorism and drug smuggling, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Saturday.
Speaking at a school inauguration in Prey Veng province’s Kamchay Mear district, Hun Sen said that piracy, terrorism and drug smuggling have become urgent issues, yet officials have no ships to patrol the coastline.
“The patrol of police and RCAF soldiers is limited,” Hun Sen said in an address televised on Apsara TV. “How can we crack down on [drug smuggling] if we don’t have patrol ships?”
He added that the need to provide security on the coast is particularly important, given the likelihood of more oil companies seeking to explore Cambodian waters in the future. In January, petroleum giant ChevronTexaco announced that it had discovered pockets of oil beneath Cambodian waters.
Last week, the Defense Ministry said it is planning to purchase several Chinese boats to help the navy combat an increasing number of smugglers operating along the coastline. The cost and number of ships have not been disclosed.
Calls to co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh for comment were unsuccessful Sunday.
In his speech, Hun Sen said that the government has planned to purchase the ships since he visited China in November 2004.
Hun Sen also responded to critics who have blasted the government for spending money on ships of dubious quality.
The ships that the government wants to buy haven’t been made, Hun Sen said, adding that negotiations are not yet complete.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Sunday that the government should reform the Defense Ministry before it purchases the ships. He accused naval commanders of turning a blind eye to illegal fishing.
He said that the deal must be approved by the National Assembly and the cost must be disclosed to ensure it is reasonable and the engines operate well.