Prime Minister Tipped to Head Terror Fight

The Ministry of Interior is drafting a new protocol that will place the country’s anti-terror unit un­der the command of Prime Min­ister Hun Sen and a committee to be formed of police, military and other government officials, a spokesman said Monday.

The change in command structure should sharpen the unit’s re­sponse time and efficacy as the government tries to show the world that it is taking measures to deal with terrorists, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said.

“We want to show the government’s commitment in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

Khieu Sopheak could not provide details about the protocol but said the committee will include officials from several ministries, as well as high-ranking police and military officials. Co-Ministers of Interior Sar Kheng and Prince Norodom Sirivudh will likely be general staff of the committee, he said.

The plan, however, has not  been submitted to the prime minister for approval, he said.

The government’s anti-terror efforts were recently the focus of a controversial UN report on threats in the region and were highlighted in a speech Monday by Prime Minister Hun Sen at a ceremony to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the establishment of the RCAF.

“Terrorism is becoming a hot is­sue in the region and the world,” Hun Sen said. “RCAF has the duty to cooperate with other countries to fight against any terrorism, for security here and abroad.”

The ministry’s protocol, and the establishment of a balanced committee to govern the anti-terror squad, would be welcome news to governments that have been hesitant to provide funding or other forms of counter-terrorism assistance, according to one foreign military expert.

Cambodia’s 20-strong anti-terrorism unit, which trains for special situations such as kidnappings and hostage rescue, is currently under the immediate command of General Chap Pheak­dey, commander of Battalion 911 paratroop-commandos.

Clad in black jumpsuits and ski masks, the elite unit was on display at Monday’s ceremonies to showcase RCAF’s equipment and training.

But confusion over anti-terror efforts were evident even at the ceremony, where many of the prime minister’s elite bodyguards also wore uniform patches that read “anti-terrorist.”

Despite the insignia, Om Yen­tieng, an adviser to the prime min­ister, said on Monday that there was no anti-terror team in Hun Sen’s bodyguard corps.

A UN Security Council report warned last month that Cam­bodia, with its porous borders and lax law enforcement, could harbor international terrorists and urged greater cooperation from outside countries.

Hun Sen later criticized the report as baseless and ac­cused the official, in an official letter to the UN, of damaging the country’s economy by spreading lies.

Monday’s ceremonies also marked the partial opening of RCAF’s new high command headquarters in Kandal prov­ince’s Ang Snuol district, a plan­ned $10 million facility that will place the military nerve center outside the capital. Construction on the site has moved sluggishly since beginning in 2000.


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