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As World Grapples With Terrorist Attacks, Cambodians Want More Security

Gary Mendoza, and his son Michael pay their respects at a makeshift memorial site honoring Wednesday's shooting victims Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in San Bernardino, California.

In the wake of attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, California, young Cambodians say they are concerned their country is not prepared for similar attacks.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has said it is investigating last week’s shootings in San Bernadino as an act of terrorism.

Cambodians like Thunly Sokhaleak, an 18-year-old environmental studies student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, were shocked after the attack. She says she wants the Cambodian government to create a plan to prevent such attacks in Cambodia and respond to those that may occur.

“I think that we should have a plan with partners around the world, creating a counter-attack strategy against terrorists,” she said. “Don’t let these attacks happen in other countries, nor in our country.”

She is also worried about rumors on Facebook that members of the Islamic State have entered Thailand, she said.

Pen Tieng Linda, a 19-year-old math student at the same university, said she was worried a similar attack could take place in Cambodia. “I don’t want this attack to occur,” she said.

US President Barack Obama has vowed to combat terrorism, addressing the US in a rare address from the Oval Office Sunday night that was a response to the shootings in San Bernadino, which killed 14 people.

Path Rotha, 29, a marketing student from Asia Europe University, says Cambodia could be at risk of a similar attack. “There have been a lot of strikes occurring, and terrorism is something we can see. We can’t see what revenge will come. We don’t know about that.”

Cambodian officials say the government is ready to respond to attacks, though, as the recent mob beatings of two opposition lawmakers demonstrates, the country is not exempt from violence.

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said terrorist attacks can happen “any time, any place, regardless whether the country is democratic or led by a single party.” To avoid an attack requires “prevention” or “a crack down,” he said. “Prevention is the best choice. Prevention includes sharing of information and control of trends of people coming in and coming out.”

As for Cambodia’s Muslim population, they have generally shown love of the country and have not expressed an intention of causing violence, he said. “We take this opportunity to pay respect and admire most of our Khmer Muslim people, who always carry out good deeds, meaning our Khmer Muslim people love peace and they are not extremists and they always oppose the extremists.”