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Cambodia - Ministry of National Defense

Ministry of National DefensePrior to the coup detat in March 1970, the FARK General Staff was under the command and control of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the Head of State. At that time, His Majesty the King, Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk held both titles. The General Staff controlled the three Services with its headquarters also serving as headquarters and staff for the Army.

The Ministry of National Defense was a government institution under the Prime Minister and in charge of only the technical and administrative services. The Ministry had no control over operations. These distinct responsibilities continued until the end of the Khmer Republic regime in 1975, then reemerged and have continued to be applied to the current defense organization. Within the same period, Cambodia was divided into six military regions, with each military region commander having responsibility for the conduct of operations within his own region.

The 1995 appointment of the Co-Defense Ministers as Deputy Commanders-in-Chief placed the military under tighter civilian control, but displeased Chief of the General Staff Gen. Ky Kim Yan, who previously had been able to ignore the Defense Ministers when it suited his purposes. More importantly, however, Co-Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh, a strong supporter of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, had been taking an increasingly assertive role vis-a-vis the RCAF.

The change, which in theory went into effect on 11 October 1995, provided the ministers with the authority to give orders to Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan, who formerly reported directly to the two Prime Ministers in their capacity as Commanders-in-Chief. The Prime Ministers made the change in part because they wanted a civilian to be in command of the military when they both traveled abroad.

Ke Kim Yan was unhappy with the change, in part because he did not get along well with Co-Defense Minister General Tea Banh (CPP). Making matters worse for Kim Yan, Tea Banh had become increasingly assertive in dealing with the RCAF, apparently because of increased backing from Second Prime Minister Hun Sen; meanwhile, the FUNCINPEC Co-Defense Minister General Tea Chamrath had gone into repose. Ke Kim Yan believed he had been put into a difficult position because, in the past, he was able to straddle successfully the fence between the leadership of the two major political parties.

The move put the military under greater civilian control and will help improve coordination between the RCAF General Staff and the Defense Ministry, which sometimes had been lacking. It was curious that, through Tea Banh, Prime Minister Hun Sen would take actions which would alienate the Army, from which he frequently claimed to derive considerable support.

The command structure of the defense organization was significantly revised in early 1999 the time when the Second-Term Government commenced with only one Prime Minister. The Prime Minister relinquished his title as the Commander-in-Chief of the Cambodian National Armed Forces, and a new Commander-in-Chief of the RCAF was appointed. The current Commander-in-Chief no longer had command or control over the National Police.

At the same time that changes were made to the national command and control structure, the Ministry of National Defense also changed its structure. Evolving from its previous organization where Departments were the main structural components, the Ministry upgraded its immediate subordinates to General Departments. There were now three General Departments in the Ministry and each General Department had a number of Departments under immediate control. The Ministry of National Defense retained powerful management over logistics and finance.

The Ministry of National Defense continued to take responsibility for the development and oversight of defense policy. It coordinated the range of studies necessary to support the implementation of the recommendations of the 2000 White Paper. Initial studies included detailed plans for the new professional education system, and the enhanced communication network, establishment of bases in the military regions and options for improving support to the force. Army, Navy and Air Force will each be tasked with developing plans to introduce changes and new capabilities.





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