PM Lodges Protest Over UN Report

Prime Minister Hun Sen has lodged an official and emphatic objection with the UN over a Security Council mission’s report warning that Cambodia could harbor international terrorists.

Attacking the report as “nonsense” and its author as creating “his own fantasy,” the prime minister argued in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Cambodia proved its strong stance on terror last year by arresting two Thais and an Egyptian with suspected links to the regional group Jemaah Islamiyah.

“Cambodia has sufficient measures to combat terrorism. This is why, so far, Cambodia has had no act of terrorism conducted on its soil,” Hun Sen wrote in the letter, dated Wednesday and made public Thursday through the Minis­try of Information. “As part of its tough measures, Cambodia has arrested three suspected terrorists, who are now in detention.”

Heraldo Munoz, chairman of a UN Security Council committee on terrorist groups, warned last week that terrorists could use the country as a base, infuriating the prime minister. He chastised Mu­noz and the report in a speech Wednesday, and his letter to  Annan continued the critique.

“The malicious statement made by Mr Munoz is not only baseless but also came with an intention to discredit Cambodia. Mr Munoz has his own fantasy, and it is sad that a person with such a profile would make an irresponsible and unsubstantiated statement,” Hun Sen wrote.

“Cambodia strongly rejects this nonsense and foolish statement by Mr Munoz,” he wrote. Hun Sen asked that the letter be circulated to all members of the Secur­ity Council and General Assem­bly.

The UN has not replied publicly to the letter. In his remarks about Cambodia, Munoz said the country needs international cooperation in keeping terrorists out, citing visits by Jemaah Islamiyah operations chief Hambali in 2002 and 2003, shortly before his arrest in Thailand.

In May 2003, Cambodian au­thorities, working with information provided by the US, closed an Islamic school in Kandal province and arrested Thai nationals Muhammad Yalaludin Mading and Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Egyptian Esam Mohammed Khidr Ali, accusing them of links to Hambali’s group. Cambodian Cham Muslim Sman (head) Esma El was arrested a month later on similar charges.

However, attorney Kao Sou­pha, who is representing the three foreign suspects, said the prime minister chose the wrong case as evidence of the government’s best efforts.

The men have been held in prison roughly one year in excess of the legal six-month pre-trial period, and judicial irregularities have led human rights advocates to question the government’s handling and strength of the case.

“Related to the Samdech’s statement that Cambodia does not have any terrorism, why did the court then detain these suspects…18 months without trial?” Kao Soupha wrote in a letter to Hun Sen.

 

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