U.S. expresses “disappointment” at Cambodia’s dismantling of second U.S.-funded military facility

The United States has expressed disappointment that Cambodia dismantled a second US-funded military facility at its naval base without prior notice. Speaking to the media, Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh said Cambodia was not obliged to notify the US.

Satellite images released on Monday by the Center for International Strategy and Research, a Washington think tank, showed the ship maintenance facility at Cambodia’s Yun Luang naval base was still standing on Oct. 1, but ceased to exist on Nov. 4.

In September, Cambodian authorities dismantled a maritime tactical headquarters located at the base. The two facilities were built in 2017 with U.S. funding.

Cambodian Defense Minister Diban confirmed the demolition of the second facility to AFP on Tuesday. The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh has criticized this.

The news agency quoted embassy spokesman Chad Roedemeier as saying: “We are disappointed that Cambodian military authorities destroyed another US-funded maritime security facility without notice or explanation.”

But Diban insisted that Cambodia was taking these actions for its own benefit and was not obliged to inform the US of its plans.

He said: “We are doing this solely for Cambodia, not to serve anyone.”

Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Win Lang Naval Base is Cambodia’s largest naval base.

The United States has previously said it was concerned that Cambodia’s dismantling of the facilities could be linked to China’s plans to house military assets and personnel at the Yunlang base.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cambodia had signed a secret agreement with China allowing it to use the Yunlang naval base.

But Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly denied this. Cambodia’s defense ministry spokesman, General Su Chunchai, and government spokesman Pai Sai Pan also told VOA at the time that they categorically denied the existence of such a secret agreement, saying it would violate Cambodia’s constitution.

Reports of Chinese military bases in Cambodia have prompted protests from some Cambodians.

Cambodia is one of China’s closest allies in Southeast Asia and has received billions of dollars in aid from China. China has also provided political support to Cambodia’s authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen when he has been criticized by the West.