There is currently no sign of terrorist activity in Cambodia, according to an annual counter-terrorism report from the US State Department released on Friday.
However, a number of circumstances in the country combine to make it a security risk, according to the 2005 Country Reports on Terrorism.
“Conditions in Cambodia, such as massive poverty, high unemployment, a poor education system and disaffected elements within the Cham Muslim population could make the country vulnerable to terrorists and terrorist influence in the future,” the report states.
The report also notes that the government “has made effective use of its existing one-page law on terrorism,” particularly in the December 2004 prosecution of six men accused of participating in a Jemaah Islamiyah conspiracy to bomb embassies in Phnom Penh.
Last year, however, a US State Department report on human rights in Cambodia criticized irregularities in the Jemaah Islamiyah suspects’ trial.
“We do not think there’s any disconnect…between the two reports,” US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said Monday.
“The concerns voiced in the human rights report were about technical procedures, not really ones of substance,” he maintained.
Cambodia’s 1992 terrorism law, developed more to combat the Khmer Rouge than Islamic militants, contains only three clauses and defines terrorism as acts that “create panic amongst the mass of the people” in order to destabilize public order and political stability.
A new terrorism law will be unveiled soon, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said Sunday. He would not discuss its contents other than to say that it would broadly conform with UN anti-terrorism conventions.
Ahmad Yahya, Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker and prominent member of the Cham community, said Monday that he did not disagree that wayward members of the country’s Cham community could be a cause for concern.
“In the past, no one [has been] involved in that kind of thing. We don’t know about the future,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Thet Sambath)
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