South Korea donated 222 military and civilian vehicles, as well as mechanical equipment and spare parts, to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) at a ceremony attended by Defense Minister Tea Banh in Kompong Speu province on Thursday.
“If anyone wants to start to make chaos or any revolution, then this equipment will join all our units,” General Banh said of the new hardware.
The defense minister was joined by Kang Byung-joo, an undersecretary of state at the South Korean Defense Ministry, for the handover at the Techo Hun Sen Military Technical Institute in Samraong Tong district.
An additional 145 vehicles will be donated in July along with a marine patrol boat, said Chao Phirun, director-general of RCAF’s department of material and technical services, adding that many of the donated vehicles were more than 10 years old.
The donation marks the third time South Korea has donated military equipment and vehicles to Cambodia, according to General Phirun. In 2010, 257 vehicles and equipment, as well as a marine vessel, were handed over. A year before the 2013 national elections, more than 200 vehicles and pieces of heavy machinery were also donated, he said.
South Korea has been accused of influencing Cambodian military policy in the past. GlobalPost reported in 2014 that the South Korean Embassy, looking to protect the country’s business interests in the Cambodian garment sector, took credit for pressuring top RCAF officials to order a brutal military crackdown on labor protests in Phnom Penh that left five protesters dead. The embassy denied any involvement at the time.
Gen. Banh on Thursday assured reporters that the latest donated vehicles would not be used on the government’s political opponents, as the country had other ways to deal with unrest.
“Please don’t worry about the personal issues,” he said when asked about political conflicts. “We have laws to implement against those people.”
In January, South Korea announced a $417 million aid package for Cambodia, much of it for roads and infrastructure, following high-profile visits from top South Korean diplomats and defense officials over the past year.