An Interior Ministry official said Tuesday that he had been named head of Cambodia’s new Intelligence Department.
Brigadier General Khem Sambo, currently deputy chief of the ministry’s Central Security Department, said he had been named to the position Nov 1 but was awaiting a ministerial decree to enter into his new functions.
“I don’t know about the work yet but the [decree] will define the department’s activities,” he said.
Interior Ministry officials said this week that the intelligence department, created Oct 3, would initially assign intelligence officials, drawn from police, military and civilian personnel, to Cambodian embassies abroad.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak declined Tuesday to release a copy of the sub-decree creating the Intelligence Department and National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy declined to comment, citing national security.
According to a summary of the sub-decree published recently by the DFDL Mekong legal consultancy, the document states that the department is intended to gather foreign intelligence about national security, economics and the foreign policies of other countries as well as to develop “technological intelligence” to protect national security.
The intelligence officials are also to help protect Cambodians abroad, it said.
Khieu Sopheak said it was currently unclear how many embassies would receive intelligence officials or when the service would begin operating but Cambodia had clearly assessed the threats to its security.
“Terrorism is a hot priority for us,” he said. “We understand terrorism can happen at any time, at any place.”
Other areas of surveillance for the new department include narcotics, money laundering and human trafficking, he said.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Monday he was unaware of the new department, but that Cambodia had no reason to spy on individuals abroad.
An open society obviated the need for spying, he added. “Here you have to accept multi-partyism,” he said. “When you accept freedom of expression, you can know who is who,” he added.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann, chairman of the National Assembly commission on the interior and national defense, said Monday that he was unconcerned by the creation of a Cambodian intelligence agency but felt that Cambodia had better things to do with its resources.
“I think that it’s alright to set up a CIA abroad or outside Cambodia, but I would like to say that there are so many other issues that have to be dealt with,” Yim Sovann said. “It’s not an appropriate time to solve crises internationally.”