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Anti-Terrorism Efforts Lauded by US

Cambodia had shown a commitment in fighting terrorism, but the country’s capacities need more improvement, according to an annual US State Department report.

The US cited the establishment of a national counterterrorism center in 2005, new laws to combat terror financing and the strict control of weapons, explosives and other materials in Cambodia as proof the government was serious in countering terrorism.

The new financing law establishes a financial intelligence unit under the National Bank, to monitor suspicious transactions and interface with the Ministry of Interior’s financial crimes unit. The law also provides for asset freezes of suspected terrorists.

“Cambodia’s political leadership demonstrated a strong commitment to aggressive legal action against terrorists and to increase its counterterrorism investigative capability, but its ability to investigate potential terrorist activities was limited by a lack of training and resources,” according to the report, obtained by VOA Khmer Thursday.

Cambodia remains a concern, however, with its porous borders, endemic corruption, poverty, high unemployment and poor education system.

Cambodia also has around 500,000 Cham Muslims, where “disaffected elements” could be exploited by terrorists, according to the report.

“Although the Cham were not generally politically active, the Cambodian government was aware of the possibility that foreign terrorists might use Cham areas as safe havens,” it said. “For example, Hambali, a senior Jemaah Islamiya and al-Qaida operative accused of involvement in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, took refuge in a Muslim school in Cambodia in 2002-2003.”