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Friday, October 31, 2008

Cambodia to double military budget to 500 mln dlrs after clashes

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. Read more!

Siam Cement delays Cambodia plant expansion

BANGKOK: Siam Cement PCL has delayed cement plant expansion in Cambodia and a new investment in Indonesia as cement demand falls due to a global economic slowdown, its cement division president said yesterday.

Thailand’s biggest industrial conglomerate also saw domestic cement consumption dropping 6%-7% this year from 25.6 million tonnes in 2007, and at least 10% next year, Pramote Techasupatkul told Reuters in an interview.

Rather than expansion, Siam Cement would focus on a 4 billion baht (US$115mil) investment plan to increase energy efficiency at its cement plants in Thailand and Cambodia, Pramote said.

“We are assessing the global situation. We have to be more prudent on spending,” he said.

The company’s domestic cement sales this year would fall to nine million tonnes, in line with the industry-wide decline, although exports would be 8.1-8.2 million tonnes, close to last year, he said.

Siam Cement has been producing cement at 80% of a full capacity of 23.2 million tonnes this year, Pramote added, but might cut production next year in response to weaker demand. – Reuters

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