Phnom Penh: Cambodia and the United States are at odds over the Ream Naval Base once again. The Ministry of National Defence has rejected Friday afternoon’s statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, which claimed it had not had “full access” to the Ream Naval Base. The statement, issued on the Embassy’s Facebook page, said its Defence Attaché had decided to end his visit after not being granted this so-called “full access”.
Deputy Director-General of the General Department of Politics and Foreign Affairs in the Ministry of National Defence, Lt. Gen. Suon Samnang, says American Colonel Marcus Ferrara and his officers visited several locations at the base on Friday morning, as requested, as well as other areas beyond the scope of the request.
"We took him to Ream Port, which he suspected was a Chinese military base. Then we took him to an Australian-funded workshop nearby. He then wanted to visit the hospital, twice, and finally, we took him to see the new location of the frontline headquarters of the National Maritime Commission on Koh Preap."
"He requested access to other places that were not deemed necessary and that did not form part of the original request that had been made.”
Special Adviser to National Defense Minister Mr. Tea Banh, General Nem Sovath, has also slammed the U.S Embassy’s statement. He says it’s a “big misconception” that Cambodia did not cooperate on Friday. He says foreign visits to military bases are limited everywhere around the globe, not just in Cambodia and that the U.S. Embassy’s latest request to visit more locations at Ream Naval Base will require further talks between the two countries. He says the U.S needs to understand that Cambodia has every right to limit unfettered access to one of its military bases.
While the U.S has requested that the visit be rescheduled, again with what it calls “full access” and at the “earliest opportunity”, it has not said what exactly “full access” means to what is a military base owned by another sovereign country.
The initial request for Friday’s visit 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.