VN Minister Offers Closer Military Ties

Vietnam’s Defense Minister Lieu­tenant General Pham Van Tra met with Cambodian leaders on Thursday to renew fraternal bonds and to offer closer mil­itary cooperation and a resolution of border disputes, officials said.

The visiting defense minister offered Cambodian troops the opportunity to study and train in Vietnam and also said Hanoi would provide free medical treatment for RCAF soldiers.

“These two points are very im­portant,” said co-Minister of De­fense Pri nce Siso­wath Sirirath. “Even to study in Cambodia costs a lot of money. Vietnam also has good technical capabilities like the West.”

Strengthening military cooperation and solving conflicting claims to border territory was also discussed during an afternoon meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, the premier’s spokesman Eang Sophallet said.“[The Defense Minister] hoped that cooperation and unity would solve the border issue within limits that are acceptable to both countries,” Eang Sophallet said.

Hun Sen told Pham Van Tra that border disputes were a historical issue inherited by the current generation of Cambodians, and he hoped that the defense ministers of both countries could resolve the problem peacefully, Eang Sophallet added.

Encroach­ment by Thailand, Vietnam and Laos on Cambodia territory has caused long-running disputes between the neighboring countries. A brass band blasted out a rousing military number as Kun Kim, RCAF deputy com­man­der-in-chief, and Por Bun Sreu, De­fense Ministry secretary of state, escorted the defense minister in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Vietnamese Friendship monument.

An estimated 20,000 Vietnam­ese soldiers are still listed as missing in action in Cambodia, killed during decades of conflict against French colonial rule, the US-backed war in Vietnam and during Hanoi’s overthrow of the Khmer Rouge and its decade-long occupation of Cambo­dia.

Considered a landmark agreement in military relations, Phnom Penh and Hanoi agreed in 2000 to a joint search and recovery operation. The remains of almost 3,000 missing Vietnamese soldiers have been repatriated since the operation began in July 2001. (Additional reporting by Kevin Doyle)


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