In an era of increased fears about terrorism and security, officials are installing metal detectors at the National Assembly.
“This is a new security measure to protect the safety of parliamentarians,” Assembly Deputy Secretary-General Chan Ven said.
Officials are stepping up security because of new threats in the region and around the world, Chan Ven said. In Cambodia, the main threat is from the US-based Cambodian Freedom Fighters, he added.
“There are no security threats [yet], but we have to be careful before it happens. And most important, we have to protect the security of our lawmakers. Even in a superpower country like the US, they are putting tougher measures in place. We want to avoid danger,” Chan Ven said.
Parliamentarians may also need protection from each other, Chan Ven added. “We don’t want to see the show of weapons in this legislative institution.”
Starting Monday, all lawmakers’ briefcases will be checked through an X-ray machine at the Assembly’s first gate, and lawmakers will not be allowed to turn on mobile phones while the Assembly is in session. Every visitor will be subject to the same requirements.
The three National Assembly leaders—Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and the two vice presidents—and Prime Minister Hun Sen are each allowed two unarmed bodyguards. The bodyguards’ weapons are to be left at the security checkpoint. Eight bodyguards, assigned by the Ministry of Interior, are allowed to stand guard in the parliamentary compound without weapons. Three of the eight are assigned to stand guard inside the meeting hall as the rest guard the building doors.
In addition, four National Assembly security officers are assigned to join the Interior-assigned guards. Parliamentarians’ drivers and bodyguards no longer are allowed inside the headquarters, Chan Ven said.
National Assembly officials said they were worried about guards inside the meeting hall possibly participating in a brawl.
Chan Ven said he doesn’t want to see fights like those that have broken out in other countries. In Indonesia last week, legislators started a melee, punching, kicking and shoving each other on the floor of the National Assembly, after angry lawmakers demanded immediate official formation of a regional representatives’ faction in the assembly.
“We don’t want to see similar fights here, and we won’t allow arms inside the building,” Chan Ven said.
He said there are no plans to check mail for the anthrax bacteria, the latest security threat to panic governments around the world.
“We can’t check if [envelopes] have anthrax because we have no right to see them,” he said.