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Security Sector Working Group To Make Policy Recommendations

Garment workers throw objects at riot police during a strike near a factory of Canadia Center, on the Stung Meanchey complex at the outskirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.
Members of the government, military and civil society met on Monday to form a working group to undertake security reform and reporting.

The working group will have 26 members from a wide spectrum of government and nongovernment agencies to produce policy recommendations to Cambodia’s leaders.

The formation of the working group comes amid widespread criticism of Cambodia’s military and police, in the wake of violent crackdowns on pro-opposition and labor demonstrations in recent months.

Cambodia’s security forces have long been criticized for supporting the interests of rich or powerful individuals, including in illegal logging, land grabs and other crimes.

Nem Sovath, head of the foreign affairs department at the Ministry of Defense, told VOA Khmer that reform of the security sector is a government priority for the current five-year development plan.

“These reforms include systematic management of military personnel, technical training, and empowering young military personnel for the next generation of national defense, as well as for Asean integration in 2015,” he said.

Members met at a workshop Monday sponsored by the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace and the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces.

“This working group will provide advice to the democratically elected government,” said Pou Sothirak, executive director of Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. “Any elected party still needs security sector reform. Otherwise, we still have misunderstandings with the military abusing their power or have hardships as a result of their exercising power.”

Heiner Hanggi, deputy director and head of research team at the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, said reform should deal with the “legacy” of Cambodia’s past, “such as disarmament, demobilization or rehabilitation of armed forces, control of weapons, demining.”

Further democratization of the armed forces would also create security reform, he said, “as it prevents political intervention and politicization of the security forces.”