Tea Banh Jets to China on ‘Imperative’ Mission

Defense Minister General Tea Banh flew to China on Saturday on an “imperative” military mission, providing few details about the trip’s purpose except to say that he would be inspecting equipment that could be used to increase the efficacy of Cambodia’s armed forces.

“I would like to inform you that I have some imperative tasks [in China],” Gen. Banh told reporters at the Phnom Penh International Airport ahead of his flight to Beijing.

“We are going to see some [military] equipment that we intend to use to improve our forces,” he added, declining to specify the kind of equipment he would be inspecting.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua called the trip “an unofficial visit to further enhance bilateral ties and cooperation,” and said that Gen. Banh would meet with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing, but did not provide further details.

China has become a major source of military loans and aid to Cambodia in recent years. In June, the government took delivery of the first of a dozen Chinese-made Z-9 helicopters that were part of a multimillion-dollar loan deal signed between the two countries in 2011.

In August, the National Police announced that China had donated 1,000 handguns and 50,000 bullets to Cambodia’s law-enforcement officers.

Also Saturday, Xinhua reported that Air China would begin offering twice-weekly direct flights between Beijing and Siem Reap next month, with plans to increase the frequency to four times per week early next year.

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