Helicopters and airplanes of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are in a growing state of disrepair and many are not fit for flying, air force officials say.
“Today we do not have enough helicopters to meet the needs of the government,” said Colonel So Nara, a deputy commander of the air force.
More than a quarter of the air force’s 48 helicopters and airplanes are over their permitted flying hours or are simply broken, with no spare parts to repair them. Some of the aircraft have not been flown in four years, officials said.
“We have asked the government to fund the repairs, but we have yet to receive approval,” said Brigadier General Ses Vong Setha, also an air force deputy commander. “We are told we may get some money in the year 2000.”
The aircraft, many of which are left in the open in the sun and rain, are quickly rusting and deteriorating. The air force would like to keep them in hangars, but has no money for construction, So Nara said.
“If they are left like this they will be easily rusted and spoiled and the government will lose more” money, he said. Repairing them on time, he said, will save the government money.
Sam Manit, secretary of state for the council of ministers and Uk Rabun, secretary of state for finance, said recently that they have not received official requests for money from the air force.
“I hope the government will reconsider and pay attention to the issue,” Ses Vong Setha said. “It is very important [to have helicopters] for carrying government officials, military personnel and loads of food for RCAF troops deployed along the border or in the hills which vehicles cannot reach.”
So Nara said he did not have statistics on how many air force aircraft have crashed in recent years. Senator Ung Sim said flying on the helicopters does not bother him.
“The one that we’ve got is no problem because it is a special one to carry the delegation of the National Assembly and Senate.”
“I am worried when I get into a helicopter as I know some of the helicopter’s machinery is not working well,” said Yuon Yan, an assistant to Senator Kem Sokha.