While repeating slabs of text from previous versions, the US State Department’s latest annual report on terrorism in Cambodia commended the government for strengthening its counterterrorism capabilities.
The 2009 country report on terrorism, released in Washington on Thursday, said the threat of terrorism in Cambodia was still real, despite the country’s “strong commitment to legal action against terrorists.” The report did not cite any terrorism cases that occurred in Cambodia in 2009.
“In Cambodia, terrorists could attempt to exploit various local conditions-including endemic corruption, poverty, high unemployment, a poor education system, porous borders, and disaffection within the Cham Muslim population, which makes up approximately five percent of the population-to gain recruits, resources, and lines of operation,” the report said, using almost identical text to previous years’ reports.
The mention of the Cham population, however, was at odds yesterday with Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, who said the government did not consider the Cham community a threat to national security.
“We 100 percent do not consider them terrorists,” Lt Gen Sopheak said, adding that the Cham community was extremely cooperative with the government.
The US report also mentioned the number of officials who had undergone counterterrorism training in 2009 and the foreign-backed technological advances being implemented to protect the security of Cambodia’s borders.
“With US assistance, Cambodian authorities monitored computerized border control systems at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, and at the land border crossings of Poipet and Koh Kong,” the report said. “International ports employed the use of this computerized system, as well as E-passport for Cambodian nationals and VISPEC, which was provided, installed, and trained to Cambodia’s immigration police by the United Kingdom.”
Lt Gen Sopheak said that advanced training for officials and improvements in technology were helping Cambodia stay on top of the threat of terrorism. “Terrorists will take every opportunity to attack us, so we must make sure that our officials are smarter than they are,” he said.