Security is to be stepped up at hotels, restaurants and bars frequented by foreigners in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap town in response to Saturday night’s bombing on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali, National Police Director-General Hok Lundy said on Tuesday.
Cambodia’s most powerful police chief said security was already tight before the recent bombing in Bali that killed around 190 foreign tourists and local Balinese, but precautions would be increased in the two towns most frequented by foreigners.
“Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are places the government keeps its eye on and always upgrades security,” Hok Lundy said.
“Prevention is better than a cure…. Strengthening security is a priority for the country’s development,” he said.
The massive car bomb in Bali raises the specter of an al-Qaida-planned bombing campaign against Western interests in Southeast Asia that US intelligence reports warned of in September.
Cambodia was on the list of eight countries reportedly earmarked for attacks on foreign diplomatic compounds, according to US Central Intelligence Agency reports published in Time magazine.
Prime Minister Hun Sen condemned the Bali attack on Tuesday but said Cambodia had nothing to fear, as it was not a target for terrorists.
“We have already prepared to secure security, not only for government heads of state but for all the people,” Hun Sen said.
Hok Lundy also said that despite what foreign embassies may think of security in Cambodia, police intelligence have found no evidence of threats inside the country.
“My police authorities actually found nothing about this issue,” he said.
On Monday, Hok Lundy appealed to delegates for the forthcoming Asean Summit not to be concerned about security, which he said would be “100 percent” during the largest meeting of regional leaders ever to take place in Cambodia.
Phnom Penh Municipal Cabinet Chief Mann Chhoeun said on Tuesday that no orders have been given in relation to the Bali attack, but increased security was discussed at a meeting last week of police and military police commanders.
Police have begun setting up illegal weapons checkpoints and mobile units are on undercover patrol in the city.
Police in Siem Reap province also said they have no new orders to increase security since Saturday’s attack in Bali, but police have been working closely with venues frequented by tourists.
“We have cooperated with security guards in hotels, night clubs and restaurants who work closely with the provincial police,” said Tan Chay, deputy police chief in Siem Reap province.
“Siem Reap province is the safest province compared to others in Cambodia,” he said.
Hoteliers in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap said they were unaware of the new plans to protect tourist locations, but with the Asean Summit approaching, security already had been increased.
Ministry of Tourism Director-General Kousoum Saroeuth said hotels, restaurants, clubs and guest houses were recently ordered to increase the presence of private security guards and to link their activities with local police officials.
“All guards in 5-star hotels and other tourist sites need to take note of suspect persons, and to ensure the vehicles parked at hotels are safe,” Kousoum Saroeuth said.
Foreign embassies in Phnom Penh are already linked to the National Police and Military Police networks, he said.
The US, Australian and British embassies in Phnom Penh remain on high-alert since threats of militant assaults to mark the first anniversary of the Sept 11 suicide attacks on New York and Washington.
A travel advisory against visiting Indonesia for all but essential reasons was posted in front of the British Embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday, an embassy official said. The US and Australian embassies have also warned against traveling to Bali and Indonesia.
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean and Kevin Doyle)