TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, declared on Monday, Nov. 9 that there would never be a foreign military base in his country after rumors last week that China was in negotiations with the Cambodian government to establish a naval base in the country.
Hong Kong based media outlet, the Asia Times, published a report on Nov. 15 suggesting Beijing was lobbying Hun Sen’s government to construct a Chinese naval base in Cambodia’s Koh Kong Province.
The Prime Minister and officials from three government ministries have since reportedly rejected the rumors outright.
Koh Kong is in the development of a planned deep water port project, which the Asia Times speculated would be capable of hosting Chinese PLAN vessels like frigates and destroyers.
The Asia Times declared in their article that a 45,000 hectare concession had been made to China’s Tianjin Union Development Group for a 99 year lease encompassing most of Koh Kong’s cost line.
This area was reportedly branded the “Cambodia-China Comprehensive Investment and Development Pilot Zone” in 2015, and according to the Asia Times, the Chinese government had every intention to make the zone accessible to PLAN forces.
From the Asia Times report:
“Since 2017, China has lobbied Cambodia for a port in Koh Kong on the Gulf of Thailand that could also be used as a naval base, though it remains unclear how far construction has progressed on the deep-water port.
…Some analysts speculate that while the Koh Kong development is the most likely site for a speculated Chinese naval base in Cambodia, it’s possible that China might have designs to build it elsewhere along the country’s southern coast.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen is quoted by Radio Taiwan International on the issue.
“Why would Cambodia need foreign troops? To fight who? (Cambodia) doesn't need to revisit the past with foreign troops in the country fighting wars. Cambodia will not allow itself to become a battleground for ideology or weapons’ testing.”
RTI also quotes Cambodia’s Minister of Information, Khieu Kanharith, as saying that the country has no reason to violate its own constitution in order to host foreign troops in the country.
Local English media the Phnom Penh Post also quotes the Ministry of National Defense, which released a press statement Saturday, Nov. 17 denouncing the Asia Times article as “fake news.”
“Cambodia will not join any ‘cold war’ or allow any country to use Cambodian territory as a military base as fake news has spread this [false] accusation… The spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense wholly denies the article by Asia Times that smears, incites and affects the military’s prestige and Cambodia’s permanent neutrality, and we would like to request a stop to the spread of unsourced news.”
The Phnom Penh Post also reports that, at the recent ASEAN Summit in Singapore, US Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan brought up the issue with the Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prak Sokhonn.
Sokhonn also reportedly dismissed the rumors of any Chinese naval base being planned along Cambodia’s coasts.