SIEM REAP: The Minister of Defense of Cambodia, DPM Tea Banh, has reaffirmed to the United States that Cambodia does not have a Chinese military presence at the Ream Naval Base in Sihanoukville, as has been alleged by foreigners. The DPM told the United States to stop worrying about Ream and focus on other things instead, because the naval base is just a small location.
Speaking at a press conference on the ‘Outcomes of the 9th ASEAN and ASEAN-Plus Defense Ministers’ Meetings’ in Siem Reap on Wednesday afternoon, 23 November, DPM Tea Banh said, "Please do not worry about the base. Worry about other places because that place is small, it is like a fishing port and does not have to do with anything big.”
He further added that the presence of foreign military in Cambodia would be unconstitutional and thus not allowed.
According to the DPM, the United States has been made aware of the situation at Ream, and after listening to the explanation of the Cambodian Ministry of National Defense, a mutual understanding has been achieved.
He reiterated that the improvement of the Ream Naval Base under Chinese assistance is only to strengthen the capacity of the Cambodian Navy and protect the country’s maritime integrity, security, stability, and order, so that it can better fight against crime along maritime boundaries.
"The development of this base is guaranteed to assure that there is no threat to the security of others," he said.
In the past, some countries have accused Cambodia of opening its doors to China and allowing Chinese military to establish a base at the Ream port. Prime Minister Hun Sen also allowed foreigners to visit Ream Naval Base in 2021 to observe whether there were any foreign troops stationed there.
The Prime Minister stated during a press conference on the outcomes of the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits on 13 November 2022 that Cambodia still welcomes any country that wishes to visit the base. He confirmed this matter after the Japanese military made plans to visit the base again in 2023, after having already visited once in March 2022.
"We do not only welcome Japan, but whoever wants to come with no hesitation," he said.
“If you want to come, just come, we have no objection. If you want to come and do drills with us in disaster management or counter-terrorism, we do not need only one partner to do this, but we are opening our relationship [to others]," he further added.