International police forces have stepped up efforts in Southeast Asia during the last year, concentrating on human trafficking, illegal drug enforcement and money laundering, various embassy officials said recently.
The international police, who are primarily working as advisers to government authorities, are also expected to increase their presence in Cambodia, a Ministry of Interior official said on Tuesday.
“[Local] police forces are working more and more closely with the international police groups, such as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Drug Enforcement Agency and Interpol,” said General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. “We will increase the cooperation between [Cambodian authorities and foreign police] in order to exchange information openly and to fight terrorism.”
While Khieu Sopheak gave assurances that the national police forces were competent and fully capable, he conceded that “Cambodia cannot do [all law enforcement] ourselves—we need international authorities to help in training.”
While many countries, such as France, have had a history of providing assistance and advisers to Cambodian authorities, countries like Britain and Australia have recently started expanding their presence.
In October, two British police officers took part in a training session with officers from the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Unit, and through the British government’s Drugs and Crime Fund, the country has provided training and financial assistance to law enforcement agencies to aid in anti-pedophelia efforts, according to the British Embassy.
Similarly, Australia established an international crime liaison office at its embassy here in 2001 and started the Joint Transnational Crime Investigation Team in September.
The new program supplies one Australian Federal Policeman to work as an adviser to the five-member Cambodian police team, according to an Australian police official stationed in Phnom Penh. The Joint Transnational Crime Investigation Team is responsible for assisting in the exchange of intelligence, as well as cracking down on cross-border narcotics activity, human smuggling, money laundering and international sex crime investigations.
One country with extensive enforcement efforts in Cambodia, but no permanent police presence here, is the US.
“It’s very expensive to assign US personnel in a foreign country,” a US Embassy official said on Thursday.
The lack of an assigned US officer to Cambodia also points to the fact that there isn’t a massive international crime problem here, the official said.
“If the narcotics problem was as dire as some people say, a [police official] would probably be assigned here,” the official said.
Despite this, officials from various US enforcement agencies based in Bangkok make their way to Cambodia. The FBI, the US DEA, the US Customs Service and the US Immigration and Naturalization Service all have operated in Cambodia at some time, the official said.
Even the US Secret Service, which is known mostly as the security service for the US president, works at various times in Cambodia to stop counterfeiting, the official said.
“They do come here from time to time,” the official said of the US law enforcement agencies. The official declined to say when specifically the agencies come to Cambodia.
While the FBI handles counterterrorism and other transnational crime and the DEA is responsible for cracking down on illegal drug trafficking, some agencies are “involved in the more mundane tasks,” the official said.
For example, the Customs Service, which monitors the shipment of goods from Cambodia to stop terrorism, is also responsible for checking textile goods flowing from Cambodia to ensure the country of origin, the official said.
The official said that there has been no police increase or decrease since the Sept 11, 2001, attacks in the US, but acknowledged that there has been “a shifting of priorities” in the US, in that more attention is paid to Cambodia.