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PM Hun Sen’s Statement on the Ream Naval Base Was Noted by the United States

PHNOM PENH: Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly stated in front of ASEAN and US leaders, during the ASEAN-US Special Summit, that Cambodia “does not have foreign military bases on its territory”. This was a direct response and confirmation from the Cambodian Prime Minister, in front of senior US officials, including the President and Speaker of the House, to repeated accusations made by the United States of Cambodia allowing China to build military facilities at the Ream Naval Base.

Answering a question from EAC News, the Minister Delegate Attached to the Prime Minister, Kao Kim Hourn, said that senior US officials, such as the US President, took note of the Prime Minister’s statement, and added that this is the last confirmation from Cambodia to the United States regarding this matter, and will hopefully be a positive sign for future relations.

"Samdech Techo's confirmation now is the official confirmation [from Cambodia] that the country does not have foreign military bases on national territory, and Cambodia welcomes the presence of ships from other countries, including the United States, at the Cambodian port," said Minister Delegate Kao Kim Hourn. "This is a confirmation to the leaders of the United States, as well as to the leaders of ASEAN and the leaders of [US] Congress, not to raise this issue further. There was no response, it's just that the United States has taken note of [the Prime Minister’s statement] at this time. Some say that no response is considered a response."

In a meeting with Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn on the sideline of the ASEAN-US Summit on 13 May, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, also raised the issue of the Ream Naval Base, expressing concern that the construction of military facilities at the base by the People's Republic of China would undermine regional security.

In response, Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhon reiterated Cambodia’s firm adherence to the Constitution of Cambodia which does not permit foreign military base or presence on Cambodian soil, and further underlined that the renovation of the base serves solely to strengthen the Cambodian naval capacities to protect its maritime integrity and combat crime.

The Director General of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, Dr. Kin Phea, has said that despite the Prime Minister's direct statement on the issue, it would not be possible to end the allegations coming from the United States, if the country continues to place this issue under its agenda of politics.

He said, “[The Prime Minister’s explanation] is what we really did, what we should do, and must do, and what we have already done. Whether [the accusations] can be washed away, it is no longer Cambodia's duty and it is the consideration or conscience of the country that accuses us."

Tensions between Cambodia and the United States have been high, with the United States accusing Cambodia of trying to hand over the Ream Naval Base to China, and expressing displeasure over the demolition of its aid building at the naval base. Cambodia has attempted to clarify this issue numerous times but the accusations have remained.

In connection to the Ream Navel Base, the United States blacklisted two senior Cambodian officials back in November 2021, the Director-General of the Defense Ministry's Material and Technical Services Department, Chao Phirun, and Navy Commander Tea Vinh, under the Global Magnitsky Act, which authorizes the US government to sanction foreign government officials the US deems as human rights offenders.

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