Tea Banh to Look After Poll Security

The Council of Ministers last week appointed Defense co-Minister Tea Banh to oversee election security, although a comprehensive security plan is still in the early stages.

Tea Banh said Tuesday it is natural for him to head the commission because soldiers are more equipped than any other security force to protect polling stations.

“Soldiers provide a stronger pres­ence than police,” the three-star CPP-appointed general said. “Soldiers of the general staff and from the Defense Ministry have more experience in providing security for elections than the police.”

He said that because of the de­cline of the Khmer Rouge, the at­mos­phere for voters in 1998 would be safer than in 1993.

Nady Tan, the secretary-general for the Council of Ministers, said the request for a committee originated from Tea Chamrath, the National Election Com­mit­tee’s security coordinator. Tea Chamrath is on leave from his post of defense co-minister.

Also on the committee are representatives from the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Finance, the national police and the military police, Nady Tan said.

Tea Chamrath said he would not comment on the RCAF’s role for at least another week.

It appears, however, that little progress has been made toward the proposed $4 million, 70,000-man force security plan.

Analysts and diplomats said the most important function of troops in July would be to prevent people from bringing guns and weapons into the polling stations, and to secure the transportation of ballot boxes after voting is finished.

Other analysts worried that soldiers have not received the proper training for this type of operation.

“You just don’t throw troops at a peacekeeping operation,” one analyst said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They have to be conscious of the fact that they can appear to be intimidating. That takes a strong discipline and a lot of training.” (Additional reporting by Touch Rotha)

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