Unveiling a draft five-year plan for the military, General Pol Saroeun, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said yesterday the government plans to reinforce RCAF positions along the Thai border and at sea, fortifying and developing bases as well as offering continued training to men under arms.
The remarks followed Sunday’s exchange of rocket and small arms fire between Thai and Cambodian armed forces in Preah Vihear province, which left two Thai soldiers injured and was the third such clash since 2008.
At the seminar held at the Defense Ministry, General Saroeun told military officials and reporters that the government intended to maintain force levels at appropriate strengths given the current situation but he did not give specific numbers. Despite decreasing government revenues in 2009, the military budget saw a bump of 24 percent in 2010 to $277 million.
Thailand’s use of a unilaterally redrawn map of the border “causes tension along both countries’ border, especially in the Preah Vihear temple area, which needs more time to be resolved,” General Saroeun said, reading from the draft report.
Mr Saroeun also said the already bloated RCAF officer corps should not see new additions.
“If there is retirement, we should not replace” the departing officers, he said, noting that in RCAF Region 5, comprised of Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Pursat provinces, there are as many as 20 deputy commanders.
The draft report also contained retrospective information on military administration from 2005 to 2009, indicating that the Defense Ministry had given training to 60,374 existing soldiers and 7,000 new recruits, while 2,127 soldiers were sent abroad for training. A total of 15,270 hectares were cleared of land mines and peacekeeping forces were sent to work in UN missions in Chad and the Sudan.
Speaking at the seminar, General Tea Banh, the Defense Minister, said Cambodia was working to defend the border and train soldiers.