Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said on Thursday that complete security will be guaranteed during the visit of some 14 heads-of-state for next month’s Asean and Greater Mekong Subregion summits.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion with local journalists on the forthcoming series of regional meetings in Cambodia, Hor Namhong said he wanted to dispel any security fears ahead of the meetings, which kick off Nov 3.
“We are in a position to guarantee, 100 percent, about security,” Hor Namhong told reporters.
“I cannot tell you what we are doing, what we will do. But…we have taken measures to guarantee security—for terrorists or anyone during these meetings—100 percent,” he said.
During the summit meetings, presidents and prime ministers from Asean’s 10 member nations will meet in Phnom Penh with the leaders of China, India, South Korea and Japan.
South African President Thabo Mbeki has also been invited to the high-level talks, Hor Namhong said.
Though no security threats are evident in Cambodia, foreign security and military experts said last month that the country was ill-prepared to deal with a terrorist attack, specifically a hijacking or hostage situation.
Southeast Asia has increasingly been fingered as a possible “second front” for militants since the US-led war in Afghanistan, and the congregation of so many regional leaders could be a tempting target, the experts said.
The US and British embassies in Phnom Penh closed around the first anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks on New York and Washington following reports that militants may have been planning attacks.
General Chap Pheakdei, commander of the elite 911 Para-Commando Unit, confirmed on Thursday that his anti-terrorism team has been given orders to provide security at Pochentong Airport during the summits.
“My troops will take care of security at Pochentong Airport for the Asean summit, but I appeal to the government to donate modern equipment. We have ability but we lack the equipment,” he said.
Hor Namhong admitted during Thursday’s meeting that the task of organizing the summits was a burden for the government, but the preparations were progressing according to schedule, he said.
The minister declined to reveal the financial costs of holding the summits and was evasive on the number of city streets that will be closed during the events.
“I don’t know yet how much we have to spend,” he said.
A foreign official said on Thursday that commuter chaos is expected in the city during the summit, because many of the city’s major thoroughfares can expect to be closed to traffic.
Two city blocks around the Inter-Continental Hotel—the location of the Asean summit—will be closed during the three-day event to all but those with security passes, a source said.
Streets such as Norodom, Monivong and Mao Tse-Tung boulevards will also likely be closed off at least twice each day to allow the more than 1,000 foreign delegates and officials to travel from hotels to the summit conference center.