Phnom Penh : A fresh row appears to be brewing over the Ream Naval Base near Sihanoukville. The U.S. Embassy in Cambodia says its Defense Attaché, Colonel Marcus Ferrara, visited the base on Friday, in cooperation with Cambodian authorities, but was refused “full access” and ended the tour.
In a statement released on its Facebook page, the U.S. Embassy has now requested that the visit be rescheduled with “full access at the earliest opportunity.” There is no mention of what exactly “full access” means to what is a Cambodian military base.
A request for the U.S to visit Ream Naval Base was made last week during a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and U.S Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, a request the Prime Minister granted.
That permission was given to allay fears in Washington that Phnom Penh was allowing Beijing to build its own naval base on the Gulf of Thailand. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that the base remains under Cambodia’s sovereign control and that China is merely funding the base’s redevelopment. When complete, Prime Minister Hun Sen says any country in the world will be welcome to use the base and hold joint military exercises with the Royal Cambodian Navy.
After today’s aborted visit, the U.S Embassy in Cambodia now says “routine and frequent visits by U.S. and other foreign military attachés to Ream Naval Base can be an important step towards greater transparency and mutual trust”.
A response from the Royal Cambodian government is expected.