04 Maret 2010

Cambodia Tests Rockets

4 Maret 2010

Cambodian soldiers prepare Russian-made BM-21 rockets during multiple rocket launch system test at Kampong Chhnang province, 120 km (74.6 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh, March 4, 2010. (photos : Reuters)

KAMPONG CHHNANG (Cambodia) - CAMBODIA'S military mounted a rare public test of rockets on Thursday amid a lingering troop standoff over disputed territory with neighbouring Thailand.
In their first public drill since the country's civil war ended over a decade ago, Cambodian troops fired some 200 rockets from truck-mounted rocket launchers at an airfield 180km from the Thai border.

However defence ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat told AFP the display was 'not about flexing our muscles' against Thailand. 'The drill is not a threat or a show of force against neighbouring countries or foreign countries,' Mr Chhum Socheat said before the rockets were fired in front of assembled media and top brass.

'It is about the strengthening of the abilities of our forces in order to fulfil the duties of national defence against invaders.' Prime Minister Hun Sen declared in a speech last week the rockets would be fired to gauge the quality of the Russian and Chinese-made Cold War-era weapons which have long laid unused in warehouses.

About 200 rounds of Russian-made BM-21 rockets will be fired, according to the army. (photos : AP)

Thailand's government downplayed the Cambodian rocket drill and said there had been no troop reinforcements on the disputed border. 'I don't think Cambodia wants to intimidate us, as we have sent them a clear signal that we don't want the dispute to go out of control and affect people in both countries,' deputy Thai prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban said.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the drill was 'nothing to do with us, they are not firing into our territory.' Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in nationalist tensions and a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when Cambodia's 11th century Preah Vihear temple was granted Unesco World Heritage status. -- AFP

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