PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia will double its military budget next year to about 500 million dollars following a deadly firefight with Thailand at their disputed border this month, a lawmaker said Wednesday.
Parliament is set to approve the new military budget in a session in early November, said Cheam Yeap, head of the parliament’s finance commission.
“We need our soldiers to have enough capacity to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity and have proper equipment and weapons,” he told AFP.
“We also want our soldiers to have better training and to be better equipped with weapons and other military tools,” he said.
The lawmaker added that Cambodian soldiers also needed new bases and better pay from the government.
But the decision to vastly increase military spending will likely rankle many international donors, who provide about 600 million dollars per year for the impoverished country’s national budget.
Many of Cambodia’s Cold War-era weapons mis-fired during the October 15 firefight between troops on disputed land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple which left one Thai and three Cambodians dead.
While Thailand has a 300,000-strong armed force and a well-equipped air force, Cambodia’s much smaller military is badly equipped, badly trained and disorganised, according to a Western military official in Bangkok.
Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia flared in July when the 11th century Preah Vihear temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.
Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is in Thailand’s northeastern Si Sa Ket province.