UN Expresses Terror Concern For Cambodia

A UN Security Council committee warned Friday that Cambodia could become a cradle of terrorist activity if foreign nations do not soon help to bolster its abilities to combat terrorism.

Speaking to reporters at the UN’s New York headquarters, committee chairman Heraldo Munoz said that after recent visits to Cambodia, Thailand, the Phil­ippines and Australia, his delegation was most concerned about Cambodia—though all four countries could stand to improve their anti-terrorism programs.

Munoz’s committee is charged with monitoring the implementation of sanctions against al-Qaida, the Taliban and their associates. His delegation included representatives of China, Germany and members of the UN Secretariat, according to a statement on the UN Web site.

“Let us remember that Ham­bali, the leader of Jemaah Islam­iyah, spent some time in Cam­bodia,” Munoz said, in reference to the operations chief of al-Qaida’s Southeast Asian affiliates.

Before Hambali’s August 2003 ar­rest in Thailand, he stayed in Cambodia between September 2002 and March 2003, residing most of that time at a Muslim guest house on Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak lake.

“He was not vacationing there, clearly,” Munoz said.

Munoz also cited discrimination against the Cham Muslim community in southern Cambo­dia, as well as reports of violence from that part of the country, as causes for concern.

The international community is obligated to engage itself in the fight against terrorism in countries where help is needed, he said. Norwegian anthropologist Bjorn Blengsli, who has visited Cham communities throughout Cambo­dia, took issue with the suggestion that Islamic communities here are especially ripe for militancy.

Blengsli, who is working on a book on Islamic education in Cambodia, said he had not heard any reports of discrimination or violence involving Chams in the southern provinces.

“There is no information whatsoever, and I’ve been down there quite a few times,” he said Sun­day.

Blengsli conceded that there were reports of disputes over land and fishing lots involving Chams in other areas of the country, but added that such cases are common with minorities around the world.

“Don’t blow this out of proportion,” he said. “Minorities are more vulnerable than majorities.”

Concerns about Cambodia be­coming a terrorist haven should stem from the country’s poor law enforcement, porous borders and corruption—not local unrest, Blengsli said.

Graham Shaw, coordinator for the local UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said Sunday that despite anti-terrorism efforts falling within his department’s mandate, he was unaware of Munoz’s mission to Cambodia. Attempts on Sun­day to reach Douglas Gardner, head of UN activities in Cambo­dia, were unsuccessful.

Om Yentieng, adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, declined to comment on Munoz’s visit and his committee’s assessment, saying only, “Let time judge the UN re­port, whether it is correct or not.”

But Chap Phakdey, commander of RCAF’s Special Airborne Division 911—the nation’s anti-terrorism force—expressed confidence in his men’s ability to crack down on terrorism.

“I think the UN stated like that be­cause Cambodia has never shown off its muscle. I myself want to show them, but it is up to the government whether they allow me,” he said.

Chap Phakdey said the 911 paratroopers had carried out anti-terrorism exercises based on those conducted by the Chinese and Vietnamese militaries just last week.

He said the exercises focused on rescuing hostages, but de­clined to elaborate.

 

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