Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Commander-in-Chief General Pol Saroeun met Wednesday with General Vincent Brooks, the chief of the U.S. Army’s Pacific Command, to discuss cooperation between the two militaries in the region.
Speaking at the closed-door meeting at RCAF Central Command in Phnom Penh, Gen. Brooks, whose visit to Cambodia began Tuesday and concludes today, said his trip had been positive so far, with the militaries agreeing to further cooperation.
“It’s an honor to come and visit with our friends here and I’ve been privileged to meet with several of them today—[from] the army, the Royal Gendarmerie and of course the RCAF with General Pol Saroeun,” Gen. Brooks said.
In January, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill to withhold non-humanitarian aid that goes straight to the Cambodian government until an investigation was conducted into last year’s disputed election or the CNRP ended its parliamentary boycott.
Earlier that month, officers from the Royal Gendarmerie, who were armed with AK-47s, shot dead at least five garment factory workers taking part in strikes linked to the CNRP’s protests across Phnom Penh and injured at least 40 others.
Gen. Brooks told reporters that the U.S. was aware of accusations of human rights abuses by the Cambodian military.
“I think this is something that is being worked through right now, and it is very important to the United States that any militaries we work with are always recognizing the importance of human rights,” Gen. Brooks said.
“We see great progress being made by Cambodia and as a result our relationship continues to improve.”
Contacted by telephone after the meeting, Gen. Saroeun declined to comment on what was discussed in the meeting.
“It’s a military affair, it can’t be for interviews,” he said.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Jay Raman said the purpose of Gen. Brook’s trip was to discuss future joint operations and that the general would also meet with civilian leaders before leaving.
“The purpose of Commanding General Brooks’ visit is to develop stronger ties between the U.S. Army Pacific and the armed forces of Cambodia and to discuss future humanitarian assistance programs,” Mr. Raman wrote in an email.
In May, the U.S. Army Pacific Command removed from its Facebook page images of RCAF soldiers pointing AK-47s during an exercise the U.S. hosted in Kompong Speu province.
The U.S. Embassy spokesman at the time said the exercise was nevertheless humanitarian training to teach RCAF soldiers to respond to improvised explosive devices and thus legal under Mr. Obama’s ban, which was at the time still in force.