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Cambodia Army - History

Forces Armées Royales Khmères’ FARK 1953197050,000
Forces Armées Nationales Khmères FANK 19701975210,000
National Army of Democratic Kampuchea NADK19751979200,000
Khmer People's National Liberation AFKPNLAF1979199314,000
Armée Nationale Sihanoukiste ANS1981199318,000
Khmer People's Revolutionary AFKPRAF1979198940,000
Cambodia People's Armed Forces CPAF1989199355,000

The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), was reestablished in 1993 following the creation of a democratically elected First-Term Government. This new RCAF was comprised 60% by the Cambodia People's Armed Forces , 30% by the Armée Nationale Sihanoukiste force of the the Front Uni Nationale pour le Cambodge Independent, Neutre, Pacifique et Cooperatif (FUNCINPEC), and 10% by the Khmer People's National Liberation AF. It was agreed that 70% of each armed force would be disarmed and demobilized, but this did not happen. These percentages suggest a 2:1 ratio between the strength of the CPAF [about 55,000, up from 40,000 a few years earlier] and the ANS [about 18,000], and that the ANS was three times the strength of the KPNLAF [at least 8,000, and no more than 14,000]. Obviously, these numbers are difficult to reconcile.

They also suggest a total strength of about 75,000 troops, about half the number that appeared once the debate over demobilization began in earnest. Information provided by the Cambodian parties to the military survey mission sent by the UN Secretary-General in 1991 indicated total forces of over 200,000. The figures supplied to the UN suggest that either open sources had previously under-counted fielded forces by a factor of nearly three, or that the various factions had massively over-reported their troop strengths.

Information provided by the Cambodian parties to the military survey mission sent by the Secretary-General in November - December 1991 indicated total forces of over 200,000 deployed in some 650 separate locations. In addition, militias totalling some 250,000 operated in almost all villages. These forces were armed with over 350,000 weapons and some 80 million rounds of ammunition. Based on this and other information, the Secretary-General recommended that UNTAC have a military component of 15,900 all ranks to be headed by a Force Commander. Personnel would include headquarters staff (204), a military observer group (485), an infantry element (10,200), an engineer element (2,230), an air support group (326) to operate and maintain 10 fixed-wing aircraft and 26 helicopters, a signals unit (582), a medical unit (541), a composite military police company (160), a logistics battalion (872), and a naval element (376) to operate 6 sea patrol boats, 9 river patrol boats, 3 landing craft and 12 other boats. UNTAC's military component was almost fully deployed by July 1992, with some 14,300 troops in the country and the remainder en route.

The United Nations initially estimated 150,000 or more Cambodian military forces were to be demobilized from the forces of the Government of the State of Cambodia (SOC), the Cambodian People's Armed Forces (CPAF). The forces of the Party of Democratic Kampuchea (PDK) (also known as the Khmer Rouge), the National Army of Democratic Kampuchea (NADK). The Secretary-General recommended that the military component be fully deployed by the end of May 1992 and that the regrouping and cantonment process, as well as demobilization of at least 70 per cent of the cantoned forces, be achieved by the end of September 1992. The number of cantonment centers was finally set at 55 (33 for CPAF, 14 for NADK, 5 for KPNLAF, and 3 for ANKI).

As for the cantonment process, which had begun in June 1992 with the declaration of phase II, some 55,000 troops of the three participating factions, or approximately a quarter of the estimated total number of troops, entered the cantonment sites and handed over their weapons. This process, however, had to be suspended, due to the non-compliance by PDK and the deterioration of the military situation. Some 40,000 cantoned troops were subsequently released on agricultural leave.

In antiquity Cambodia, having conquered Laos, parts of Thailand, and the Malay Peninsula, held sway over a vast area of Southeast Asia. Khmer martial prowess waned in the early fifteenth century, however, and Cambodia subsequently endured periods of colonization, occupation, and vassalage by its more militarily powerful neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam. This long period of decline reached its nadir in the early nineteenth century, when Cambodia nearly ceased to exist as a sovereign state as the result of encroachments by its neighbors. In 1863 the Cambodian king acquiesced in the establishment of a French protectorate over his nation, in order to preserve it from extinction. The protectorate's authority was extended often by force of arms, and ultimately Cambodia became a de facto colony that eventually gave birth to a modern state with its own armed forces and military doctrine.

Since World War II, Cambodia enjoyed few strife-free periods. Its people have suffered colonization, prolonged civil war, and occupation by a foreign power almost continuously. During this time, it has been ruled by three authoritarian governments of differing ideological orientations and varying degrees of repression.

American military aid to Cambodia began indirectly in 1950 in the form of a security assistance program for the French forces in Indochina, that enabled them to expand a recently created indigenous army. In 1955 the United States agreed to continue this aid to the independent kingdom of Cambodia. The program, which included military training and a resident Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), lasted until terminated by the Cambodian government. Security assistance was again extended to the Khmer Republic from 1970 until that government fell in 1975 to the Khmer Rouge. After 1975 the United States extended humanitarian assistance through United Nations (UN) agencies to Cambodian refugees on the Thai border and gave nonlethal aid, only, to the two noncommunist components of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK).

In the 1980s Cambodia was the reluctant host to a substantial Vietnamese military presence, reinforced by its Cambodian surrogate army. History thus appeared to be repeating itself, and foreign observers and Cambodian nationalists feared that the country eventually might become part of a Hanoi-dominated Indochinese federation. The UN recognized the tripartite CGDK as the legitimate government of Cambodia. The insurgent forces of the coalition were capable only of conducting guerrilla raids and sabotage missions within Cambodian territory, against the Vietnamese occupation forces and the Kampuchean (or Khmer) People's Revolutionary Armed Forces (KPRAF) of the Phnom Penh government, the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). Hanoi fulfilled its public commitment to withdraw its forces by 1990.

In April 2012 nearly 150 Cambodian peacekeeping forces were sent to South Sudan as a part of the United Nations Peacekeeping mission. The send-off ceremony was held under the presidency of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense H.E. General Tea Banh on Apr. 11 at the Peacekeeping Force Training Center in Oudong. According to H.E. Prak Sokhonn, Delegate Minister Attached to the Prime Minister and Chairman of the National Coordination Committee for Sending Troops to UN Peacekeeping Operations, the 149 peacekeepers from military police unit 702 and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces hospital unit 801 were the first Cambodian peacekeepers in South Sudan.

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Page last modified: 02-06-2012 17:25:31 ZULU