Kandal (FN), Oct. 7 – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated that Ream Naval Base is a Cambodian military port and if other countries want to dock, they must first apply for a permit from the Kingdom, addressing on Wednesday at the grand opening of the Chinese-firm Prince Manor Entertainment Center in Kandal’s Kien Svay district.

“We can allow access to ships from many countries to dock cargo ports, but Ream Naval Base is a military port, so you need to ask for permission. We welcome ships from any countries not exclusively just Chinese ships to dock, refuel, or hold joint military exercise with Cambodia,” the premier underlined today.

The premier’s statement was made in response to series of allegations that Cambodia handed over the Ream Naval Base to China for exclusive use, forcing him to broadcast what he said in Sihanoukville in June 2020. The statement was translated into English by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and sent to foreign embassies in Phnom Penh for further clarifications.

“Cambodia is an independent, neutral, and sovereign country. We do not join any country to oppose other country,” the Strongman underlined at a gathering of civil servants and technical teams for road infrastructure construction at Sihanoukville province in June.

“We have the right to do what we desire, such as in the relocation of our Maritime Centre, which has been recommended after a study.  Far from closing it down as alleged, we would like to invite all interested foreign friends to contribute funding to the Centre. We welcome assistance from the USA, France, Japan, China and others,” stated the premier.

“Our plan to have a dockyard is not a new issue at all. I asked for a dockyard to be built since the time of the State of Cambodia after noting that Cambodian rusty fishing boats were sent for repair in Thailand. We had to get our combat-vessels fixed in Vietnam and at one time as far as in Malaysia. Now, do we not have the right to get our own dockyard to repair our combat-vessels or transport vessels of our people?”

Premier Hun Sen underlined that “Cambodia is open to participation in the development of our Maritime Centre at the new location. The old and the new sites are not different, all are within our Master Plan. We will build a dockyard open to all foreign vessels that need to be serviced, and not just those from China."

“The dockyard cannot be seen as a Chinese construction because it is funded by China. Frankly speaking, we need Chinese financing to build it. However, we would welcome funding from all interested parties,” he added.

Cambodia’s Strongman said the statement that Ream Naval Base serves China exclusively was baseless and possessed a hidden agenda.

“On access to Ream Naval Base, I wish to declare that we welcome ships from all countries including the USA, France, Canada, India, UK, Japan, Australia, and not just from China, to make port call or to participate in joint exercises with Cambodia.  It is baseless to assert that Cambodia has given China 50 to 90 years exclusive rights to the base,” he stressed.

“We welcome whoever wishing to cooperate in conducting joint naval exercise on combating terrorism, human and drug trafficking and smuggling. Joint exercises on disaster relief and recue can be conducted both on land and at sea. What I do not wish to have is an offensive exercise to destroy adversaries.”

Premier Hun Sen stated that Cambodia will not allow any countries to setup a military base on her territory. It would seriously violate the Kingdom’s Constitution.

“There is no authorization to allow any foreign country to use our military base in violation of our Constitution.  As already done time and again, I wish to re-emphasize that, as an independent and sovereign country, Cambodia does not align itself with one side against another. Cambodia allows neither foreign military base on its territory, nor its military base on foreign soil, except under the United Nations’ umbrella.”