Following the massive car-bomb attack on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Saturday night, National Police Director General Hok Lundy moved to reassure participants in next month’s Asean Summit that Cambodia is safe.
Hok Lundy said security plans for the high-level regional summit, which begins on Nov 4, are under way, and Cambodian police and military personnel can guarantee the safety of visiting delegates.
“I would like to inform all delegations from Asean countries, please be happy to participate in the meeting. Do not fear, because I assure your safeguard,” Hok Lundy said by telephone on Monday.
“Although other countries have been facing turmoil from bomb explosions, Cambodian security is in 100 percent good condition,” he said.
“Starting from this minute, Cambodia is at its fullest security.”
More than a dozen prime ministers and presidents and more than 1,000 delegates are scheduled to arrive in Phnom Penh in early November for the summit. Some leaders will also attend the Greater Mekong Sub-Region meeting, scheduled for Nov 3.
The next day’s Asean Summit will bring leaders from the 10-nation regional body together with the leaders of China, India, Japan and South Korea. South African President Thabo Mbeki has also been invited to the high-level talks.
Though no security threats are evident in Cambodia, the attack in Bali, which killed at least 181 people and injured hundreds—most of them believed to be foreign holiday-makers—raises the possibility that Southeast Asia is becoming a new front line for militant groups.
Fleeing al-Qaida forces, bombed out of Afghanistan by US-led forces, are known to have made contact with the region’s Islamic extremist groups, leading security analysts increasingly to point to Southeast Asia as a haven for terrorists.
Foreign security and military experts said last month that the congregation of so many regional leaders at the Asean Summit could be a tempting target for an attack.
The US and British embassies in Phnom Penh closed over the first anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks in the US, following reports that militants linked to al-Qaida were planning attacks in the region. The Australian Embassy also strengthened security around its compound.
Phnom Penh was specifically named by an al-Qaida operative who divulged the planned attack in an interrogation by the US military.
An Asian diplomat said on Monday that the Bali attack was unlikely to deter participants from attending the Phnom Penh summit.
“[Cambodia] is not Indonesia,” the diplomat said, noting that security is much more difficult to ensure in the thousands of ethnically diverse and distant islands that make up Indonesia.
Security preparations for the summit appeared to be well advanced in Phnom Penh, he added.
The bombings in Bali are likely to feature prominently at the forthcoming summit, which is expected to sign a groundbreaking tourism agreement to remove visa requirements for intra-Asean travelers, an Asean analyst said.
“What happened in Bali affected the safety and security of Indonesia and the whole region,” said the analyst.
“It will dominate Asean discussion,” and probably “galvanize Asean leaders in paying greater attention to combating terrorism,” the analyst said.
The Cambodian government condemned the Bali attack in a strongly worded statement on Monday.
“These barbaric acts have no justification whatsoever, and must be condemned and prevented at all cost by every responsible member of civilized society,” the government stated.