Cambodia has been forced to back plans to increase its military budget
from $160 million to nearly $500 million. This is because about half the
government budget comes from foreign aid, and the donors were not willing to see
their contributions diverted to military use. The reason for the initial boost
in the defense budget was a recent border dispute with Thailand. This border
confrontation is still going on, and Cambodia feels vulnerable.
300,000 troops in its armed forces, Cambodia only 100,000. The confrontation on
the border made it clear to the Cambodians that they would likely lose any war
with Thailand. Increasing the defense budget won't change that, and peace talks
to settle the matter continue. Even if Cambodia increased its annual military
budget to $500 million, Thailand spends
more than six times that, and has done so for decades.
donors are also unhappy with money, donated to demobilize troops, being stolen
by corrupt officials. The demobilized troops are supposed to be given
retraining and severance pay, but instead got tossed off the military payroll
and left to fend for themselves. Government officials are also accused of
stealing foreign aid by taking money that is supposed to go to soldiers that
don't exist ("ghost soldiers," an ancient technique for stealing
trained, paid, equipped and led Cambodian military is not good for much beyond
acting as a police reserve. Meanwhile, the global depression has led foreign
donors to contribute less money to Cambodia next year, and cut that even more
if officials don't cut back on the stealing.