The signing last week of a military aid pact between China and Cambodia is not good news for the region. The deal was signed in Phnom Penh, during a visit by Gen Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of the Chinese army. The agreement commits China to train the Cambodian army, and to start an upgrade of the country's military hardware. The first shipment of 12 helicopters is to begin immediately.
Cambodia and China publicised the military training pact and therefore cannot be accused of secrecy. The Phnom Penh government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has been openly appealing for military aid for almost three years. Washington, for example, bans military hardware sales because of the Hun Sen government's disdain for human rights.
The timing could not be worse for China to step into the twin roles of military adviser and arms supplier to Cambodia. There is strong concern over Chinese actions in the region. Many, including the governments of the Philippines and Vietnam, fear China is moving far too aggressively. At the same time, Hun Sen and his government are seen as yielding too much, too fast to Beijing's campaign to insinuate itself in the Asean region.
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