PM Says Weapon Smuggling a Thing of the Past

Although some claim it’s been an open secret for years, Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen acknowledged for the first time Friday that wea­pons have been smuggled out of Cam­bo­dia to arm rebel groups around Asia.

“In past years, Cambodia used to be a place where weapons were ta­ken to Sri Lanka for the Tamil group, to Philippines’ Mindanao Is­land…and for the Karen in Myan­mar,” Hun Sen said at the ninth meeting of the Government-Pri­vate Sector Forum on Friday. “We have some documents about this,” he said. Burma is also known as Myan­­mar.

Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh said Sunday that it was previously reported that some small arms had been smuggled to Sri Lan­ka’s Tamil Tigers—who are waging a guerilla war to create a sep­arate state in that country’s northeast—but the exact source was still un­clear.

“Sri Lanka told [us] that arms were exported from Cambodia,” Tea Banh said. “We heard that news a long time ago. Now I don’t hear anything [more] about it,” he said.

A 2001 Jane’s Intelligence Re­view said that Cambodia represented the most important regional source for the covert transnational trade in weapons. But David de Beer, special adviser for a Euro­pean Union program to curb small arms in Cambodia, maintained that there have been no large-scale smuggling operations in the country since about 1999.

“All small arms are registered in weapon storage facilities that meet international standards,” de Beer said on Sunday. “Weapons for all the six military regions and for all gendarmes are securely stored and registered in a database.”

De Beer said that crime trends bear out the statistics regarding the containment of small arms—which include easily reassembled wea­pons such as pistols, assault rifles and machine guns.

“There were many more crimes committed in [the] late nineties with AK-47s, but now most are committed with knives and axes,” he said. “Weapons security has be­come incredibly tight in the last six years.”


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