Cambodia Still Vulnerable to Terrorism, but Improving: US

While the Cambodian government is committed to anti-terrorism, terrorists can still exploit the country’s weaknesses, such as corruption, poverty and easily crossed borders, according to a US State Department report on international terrorism released Thursday.

The annual report recycled similar language from past reports and praised the government’s commitment to fighting terrorists but noted a lack of training and resources.

According to the report, “Con­ditions in Cambodia—such as porous borders, endemic corruption, massive poverty, high unemployment, a poor education system and disaffected elements within the Cham Muslim population, which makes up approximately five percent of the population—are conditions that terrorists could exploit.”

But the report gave Cambodia credit for “notable progress” in financial counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering efforts, citing new laws and the 2008 establishment of the Financial Intelligence Unit, which operates within the National Bank of Cambodia.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith disagreed with some of the report’s conclusions.

“It’s not completely true. The report is based mostly on the hearsay,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Cambodia cannot control its border “100 percent” or “some bad guys trying to hide,” but no country can, he wrote, adding that the government has built a “solid and trusted link among different communities to prevent any social violence in the country.”

US Embassy spokesman John Johnson wrote in an e-mail that the report is based on the information provided by the embassy.

“While we do not think that terrorism is currently a problem in the country, issues such as porous borders have been linked to terrorist acts in the past,” he wrote.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said by telephone he had not read the report, but said the likelihood of international terrorism is “very low” in Cambodia. He also agreed that anti-money laundering efforts are key to anti-terrorism.



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