Cambodian Royal Army
Janes concluded in 2011 that the armed forces' "... priorities remain unaltered since Hun Sen assumed overall political control of the country in the mid-1980s. These are to: support the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP); protect Hun Sen and his immediate cadre of allies; suppress internal opposition; and protect national sovereignty."
Cambodia was rushed to formulate a professional military institution. Despite strong efforts in the initial stages, the process was hindered by a number of crises. The expansion of the crisis of ghost soldiers and political tendencies within the RCAF were some of the major obstructions that caused a number of well-intended measures to fail.
The internal security situation of the nation also contributed to the jamming of the force development process. As the outlawed Khmer Rouge rebels intensified their anti-government activities throughout the country, the RCAF was obliged to control this rebellion. The fact that the RCAF was constantly on operations meant that training, which is so important for developing military capability, was minimized and little maintenance of military equipment was undertaken.
Within the period of the second-term government, the political and security environment was the most stable in recent history; indicating that Cambodia had finally achieved peace. This environment was achieved through a policy of national reconciliation and unity under the rule of His Majesty the King, Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, and Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen's initiated ‘win win’ policy of the Royal Government. This achievement was gained through a change in government systems, disappearance of violent political confrontation (that had previously resulted in the application of military force), and the total disintegration of the political and military organs of the Khmer Rouge.
The RCAF has to reactivate its reforms consistent with the Government’s political guidelines. These guidelines direct the armed forces to demobilize to an acceptable size, achieve sound capability, and inculcate high ethics and dignity and advancement towards international standardization in the future. The RCAF has to plan for its agenda to include security cooperation for the common benefit of the whole region. Instead of combating internal strife, the RCAF is now extending its relationships in the international arena. Just as importantly, the Government is desirous of reducing expenditure on defense and security and channeling the savings to other social development issues.
The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) remains an ineffective force that suffers from being the legacy of the factional reconciliation which ended the civil war in the early 90's. It was created to amalgamate the armed forces of all contending groups and enable subsequent demobilization. Some demobilization occurred in the 90's. The RCAF has recommenced this effort, demobilizing 7,000 personnel in calendar year 2006 funded by internal government resources. However, it is still top heavy, with over 700 generals in a force nominally of around 107,000 [as of 2007], and actually (discounting ghost soldiers and age/health ineffective soldiers) less than 60,000 at that time [by US Govenment estimate]. Within the nominal force, the Army is overwhelmingly predominant, followed by the Gendarmerie, Navy and Air Force. Its equipment is primarily aging Warsaw Pact material, much of which is non-operational.
In 2001, the High Command successfully restructured the Army units by reducing divisions to brigades. In the future, particularly at the end of the demobilization, further reductions in the number of Army units are expected. This practice would also help to improve the effectiveness of command and control in the units. Border Defense Units have also been readjusted in terms of the number of the units and their locations.
Units and locations of the RCAF must continue to be reorganised. According to the demobilisation plans, the number of all types of units will be reduced. However, the highest size of unit to retain is Brigade level; and it is very appropriate to think about the military equipment, mobility, command and control. Of the overall number of forces to be continuously reduced, 80 percent or four-fifths are operational forces, and 20 percent or the remaining one fifth are command and control forces at central headquarters and at military regions and some other specialised forces. An appropriate quality must be considered for preparing military forces in each Service (Army, Navy, Air Force): 10 percent are command and control forces; 50 percent operational forces (infantry, tank ..., etc); 20 percent supporting forces (artillery, air Defense, engineering ..., etc), and 20 percent logistic forces. A number of intervention units must always be retained.
The downsizing of combat units from divisional level to brigade level and the amalgamation of some regular brigades helped address the crisis of an insufficient force, making command and control suitable to the competency of unit commanders and thus facilitating logistics and material supply systems. In addition, the reorganisation demonstrated steady progress of the RCAF reform.
In capability terms, the key initiative has been the tasking of some regular units at battalion level with responsibility for border operations in each military region. These battalions will be able to gain a detailed knowledge of their operating area, establish links with the local community, and be located within the immediate response area. These battalions will work closely with the police and other government agencies, including the Ministry for the Interior, in their areas of responsibility. Where additional personnel, mobility, supplies or weapons are required to support battalion operations, these will be available from the forces of the military region commander. The presence of these battalions will often allow situations to be contained while a political settlement is sought.
In the event of more significant military activity in the border area, the initial response will be from forces assigned to the military region. These will be reinforced as required by additional units and firepower available from the Army and High Command Headquarters. Should a broader threat emerge, the High Command Headquarters would coordinate the campaign and be able to redirect units and supplies from other areas of the country as appropriate.
The training program for cadet officers has been extended to 4 years. The extension of this program aims at allowing education to be equivalent to an international standard and at allowing officers’ to be equipped with a Batchelor degree recognised by the Royal Government. But, given that the training syllabus and capacity of the school to receive students is limited, study at the Tmart Thpong Officers School is only 3 years, and the final years, cadet officer students must pursue specialist skills study at the Combined Arms Officers School, Tlok Tasek. However, cadet officer students’ study remains 4 years.
The Army Non-Commissioned Officers School, Pich Nil, was changed to the Army Training Centre. This centre has an important and extensive role in training new recruits. This centre can also be used as a military training facility for an entire Battalion. Refresher (supplementary) training at units can be conducted in training schools at military regions.
The resources did not exist currently to stockpile significant supplies of fuel, spares, food and other equipment against the possibility of a short-term increase in operational activity. Several measures were considered to ease this problem. Military regions will be tasked with their ordering and resupply to progressively build up an additional month’s operational supplies (rather than letting their stores run very low).
The tasks of the RCAF engineers not only meet the needs of national defense, but also play an active role in improving landlines of communication, economic development and supporting provincial businesses. In cooperation with the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), RCAF engineers help clear landmines thus improving the living condition of the local people. RCAF engineers are rebuilding and fixing roads and bridges, thereby enhancing land lines of communication for people living in the remote border regions. These improvements assist the RCAF in controlling border areas and help to prevent illegal smuggling.
In Cambodia, in 1994 the US Army assisted the Cambodian Army in developing a self-sustaining de-mining program. An Army team provided nonlethal, humanitarian de-mining training as part of a train-the-trainer program. Fifty-two personnel were permanently assigned to Joint Task Force FULL ACCOUNTING, conducting investigations, excavations, and recovery operations in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos to trace American service personnel missing in the Vietnam War. The US Army also augmented the task force as required with medics, emergency ordnance disposal experts, and technicians from the Clinical Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.
Since 1993, military cooperation with foreigners has gradually progressed, especially in the field of human resource development and other technical assistance. However, the lack of specific coordination with all military cooperation programs has sometimes resulted in assistance centered only on one area. In addition, resource restrictions of donors and their linking of assistance for political reasons have resulted in stagnation of some military cooperation programs or to be of insignificant scope.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|