June 13, 2011: China recently donated 50,000 field uniforms (including hats and boots) to Cambodia. Last year, China donated 257 military trucks, and has also supplied weapons. The infantry weapons tend to be older models. That's because China is introducing a new and improved model of their QBZ-95 assault rifle (also called the Type 95) to their own troops. The QBZ-95 is a distinctive bullpup design (the magazine is behind the trigger) that China has been issuing to its troops for over a decade now. That means China has plenty of surplus Type 81 (improved AK-47) rifles (which the QBZ-95 replaced) to either put into storage, or distribute to allies. Cambodia has bought some Type 95s, for elite units. But most everyone else has the second hand Type 81. AK-47s have been widely used in Burma nearly half a century.
Cambodia really needs this Chinese military aid right now. That's because Cambodia is currently at war (sort of) with neighboring Thailand. This dispute is over a badly marked border. The basic problem is that the current 730 kilometer long border with Thailand was defined in 1907 by the placement of only 73 border markers. This has left the exact location of the border open to interpretation. Occasionally these interpretations clash, as is happening now. Neither side wants a full scale war, even though Thailand has a larger and better equipped military. In the last few years, Cambodia doubled its annual military budget to $500 million. But Thailand spends more than six times that, and has done so for decades. Thailand has 300,000 troops, Cambodia only 100,000.
Currently, each side has deployed only a few thousand troops to the disputed area. The fighting has consisted of infantry skirmishes. Anything more serious would see the Cambodians at a big disadvantage. But now, some Cambodian troops are showing up wearing Chinese combat uniforms, carrying well-used Chinese weapons. That's got to have some impact on Thai morale, if nothing else.