Clad in black uniforms, wrap-around sunglasses and toting head-set radios and automatic weapons, an RCAF anti-terrorism squad has been patrolling Phnom Penh International Airport for the last two weeks as part of a training exercise, airport authorities said Sunday.
“It is the first time for our airport that special commando forces are on duty,” said Chay Bunna, the airport’s police chief. “The commando forces are currently in rotation as part of their anti-terrorism training.”
Chay Bunna said the purpose of the daily patrols, which he estimated should last another month, is to get all members of the government’s anti-terrorism squad familiar with the layout of the airport so they can perform their duties quickly “if something happened.”
The anti-terrorism squad was publicly unveiled in a military ceremony in November 2004 not long after a UN report named Cambodia as a potential haven for terrorists.
Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh said on Sunday that the counter-terrorism training at the airport is a crucial way for the government to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
“It’s a good location [because] if something happened with terrorism, our forces will know the way to crack down,” said Tea Banh, adding that he did not believe the presence of the armed, black-clad forces would make tourists ill at ease.
A French manager on duty Sunday for the Cambodia Airport Management Services—a subcontractor of the Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports—said that the squad “just appeared” one day.
“The government requested that they go to the airport and we had no choice in the matter,” said the manager, who declined to give his name.
Chay Bunna said that 10 squad members, who patrol in groups of two or three men, are in daily rotation around the terminal and runways.
Similar anti-terrorism patrols are also common in the Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore airports, he added.