Muslims Scrutinized at Border, Officials Say

Police along the Cambodian-Thai border are more closely scrut­inizing Thai and Cambodian Muslims crossing at border check­points, according to border officials, but Thai Embassy and In­terior Ministry officials said Wednesday that no new policy has been implemented.

“I received orders from National Police Director Hok Lundy to close­ly check Khmer and Thai Mus­lims and to prevent [Mus­lims] from illegally crossing into Thai­land,” said Ath Khem, Ban­teay Me­anchey provincial police chief.

He added that the policy was implemented because Thai au­thorities were worried about Cam­­­bodian Muslims becoming in­volved in militant activities in Thailand’s restive southern pro­vinces. Ath Khem also made clear that Thai Muslims were not subject to arrests or mistreatment.

Pick Saran, immigration police chief at Poipet International Check­­point, said Wednesday that he needed permission from his superiors to allow Thai Mus­lims into Cambodia.

“We check everybody, but Mus­­­­­lims are subject to closer investigation and registration procedures,” he said.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, said there was no new policy.

“We don’t differentiate between Cam­­­bodians and Cambodian Mus­­­­­lims, they are all Cam­bod­ians,” he said, asserting that Cam­bodian Buddhists and Mus­lims have lived together peacefully for centuries.

“But every person coming to the border, they must have the proper documents,” he added.

Choup Pothirit, Battambang pro­vincial police chief, said Thai police had requested more cooperation, but said that the policy was long-standing and aimed at preventing smuggling and illegal immigration.

Thai Ambassador Piyawat Ni­yomrerks said he had no information on whether there was stricter scrutiny of Muslims at the border.

“Everyone crossing the border has to be checked,” he said. “May­be it is up to the discretion of the people on the border,” he added.

The alleged tightening of the border comes in the wake of wide­spread religious violence in southern Thailand and controversial new measures giving Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shina­watra ab­solute power to combat it.

Cambodia was also reported to have been a safe haven in 2002 for Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, allegedly al-Qaida’s top operative in Southeast Asia. He was eventually arrested in Ayut­thaya, Thailand.



Related Stories

Latest News