Earlier this month, Vietnam and Cambodia held the latest in a series of frequent joint maritime patrols. The engagement highlighted one aspect of the broader bilateral defense relationship between the two neighboring Southeast Asian states.
As I have observed before in these pages, Vietnam and Cambodia share a defense relationship as part of their wider diplomatic ties, with Vietnam providing Cambodia with military equipment, infrastructure, and training, while both countries have also looked to manage more sensitive areas of the relationship such as outstanding issues over their shared 700-mile long border, illegal fishing, and China’s growing influence in mainland Southeast Asia.
Within that broader defense relationship, one manifestation on the maritime side has been the holding of Vietnam-Cambodia joint patrols, which are usually focused on areas such as search and rescue and communication to build cooperation and trust and improve the level of coordination on joint maritime challenges such as illegal fishing. The last iteration of these patrols, the 57th iteration, were held earlier this year.
The 58th annual joint maritime patrol between the Vietnam People’s Navy and the Royal Cambodian Navy took place on March 12 and 13.
Per a statement by Vietnam’s defense ministry, this time around, the patrols took place involving Ship 251 from Region 5 of the Vietnam People’s Navy and Ship 1142 from the Naval Base of the Royal Cambodian Navy. During the patrols, the two sides took part in interactions involving “missions such as fighting piracy, smuggling, and drug trafficking; preventing illegal immigration and arms trade, and hand flag and signal lamp training that follows the International Code of Signals (ICS).”
The scope of activities and areas of concern mentioned is in line with regular patrols held between the two sides. It is also consistent previous discussions held on planning the patrols themselves, including a standard review meeting that was held in late 2019 where both countries took stock of where collaboration is and what they ought to prioritize in the future as well.
Unsurprisingly, few additional specifics were provided about the patrols. The Vietnam defense ministry statement only noted that “the patrol ended successfully” due to the “sound preparation and effective collaboration of the two sides.” Nonetheless, these patrols will continue to be among one of the key data points to assess how both sides are continuing to manage opportunities and challenges in the defense aspect of their wider bilateral relationship.