ASEAN Defense: Frenchman Takes Key NATO Post as Thailand Cambodian conflict simmers

By Stingray-this blog national security journalist

Only 2 months after the French Navy took off nuclear devices on its aircraft carrier, in a move many European military analyst said was to prepare the French Navy for operation in the non-nuclear ASEAN waters, last week, a French general took command of a key NATO command.

The move is seen by European analyst of close cooperation between the French and the American military forces. The French general, Abrial, will be working from the Norfolk Naval Base in Virgina, USA-the world’s largest, with 78 ships and 133 aircraft stationed there.

Military analyst mentioned that the move will foster NATO’s global reach.

Thailand and Cambodia are in dispute over territories that France has a stake in. While both Thai and Cambodia says they will negotiate, a group of extreme nationalistic Thais is agitating the situation, and forcing the Thai high command to issue a statement saying the Thai armed forces can protect Thailand’s sovereignty.

Cambodia has also threatened senior Thai military officials before, by saying it was prepared to throw about 10,000 battle hardened troops against the Thai force. Cambodia also appear to exhibit a great deal of flexibility in its position, having only days ago sent about 50 fully equiped soldiers to teat the Thai resolve at another disputed track.

It is the first time in the alliance’s 60-year history that a non-American has taken charge of NATO’s only strategic command in North America. Military analysts called the event “historic” and a sign France had returned “lock, stock and barrel” to the heart of the alliance.

This signifies an extremely close relation between the French and Americans, however Thailand also enjoys the status of a close ally to the Americans, only second to a NATO ally.

Thailand and Cambodia are at loggerheads over land and sea disputes, where Cambodia gave French oil firm Total, exploration right in an area the World Bank has indicated is extremely rich in oil and gas.

In Thailand’s favor is that the French oil firm Total and Chevron of the US, fought very hard against each other for the right to explore in the disputed track. Thailand has a long history of working successfully with Chevron, however, the Thai oil firm PTT, has been successful against Chevron in Thailand. 

The Thai Navy responded to the Cambodian move by immediately building a new naval base in the disputed territory and put into place fast attack craft that is built to transport SEAL-like special forces.

Abrial is a combat fighter pilot and in the last major naval conflict, the Falkland War, between the UK and Argentina, air power, particularly the Harrier with its virtical capabilities, proved to be the deciding factor in favor of the UK.

Thailand also has a small aircraft carrier packed with Harriers. The French navy is structured mostly for modern nuclear warfare and its conventional warfare capability is comparable to the Thai modern naval fleet. Over more, for the past 20 years, Thai and American navies have held an annual exercise. The Thai navy and air force are highly advanced with many cutting edge missiles from the US. Its ship to ship Harpoon missiles are the latest that are equiped with anti-jamming electronics. The Thai airforce also carries advance medium range missiles.

Thai ships are lightly armed against missiles attack however, and because of budgetary constraints, the navy’s request to the government for urgent armaments to address this weakness has been rejected.

However, some foreign intelligent analyst in Bangkok worry that if conflict do occur, the main threat to Thailand will be in having to face potential multiple theaters of operations.

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