Country Reports on Terrorism 2008 - Cambodia

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. Despite this shortfall, the Royal Government of Cambodia to date has fully cooperated with U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Conditions in Cambodia – such as porous borders, endemic corruption, massive poverty, high unemployment, a poor education system, and disaffected elements within the Cham Muslim population, which makes up approximately five percent of the population – are conditions that terrorists could exploit. 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. For example, Hambali, a senior Jemaah Islamiya and al-Qa'ida operative accused of involvement in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, took refuge in a Muslim school in Cambodia in 2002-2003.

Despite these challenges, Cambodia remained committed to strengthening its counterterrorism capability. Cambodia's National Counterterrorism Center, a policy-level decision making body established in 2005 and chaired by the prime minister, continued to improve cooperation and information sharing among Cambodia's security agencies. In January, the Cambodian Government established five departments under the secretariat of its proposed National Counterterrorism Committee (NCTC) to coordinate counterterrorism efforts. The Ministry of the Interior imposed strict controls on the use of weapons, explosive devices, chemical substances, and radioactive materials in Cambodia.

The Cambodian government made notable progress in strengthening its counterterrorist finance regime. In May, the Governor of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) signed an announcement of a Prakas of the Law on Anti Money-Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT), promulgated in June 2007. The AML/CFT legal regime included the January 29 establishment of a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which operated within the framework of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC). The FIU monitors suspicious transactions and interfaces with the Ministry of Interior's Financial Crimes Investigation Unit. Initial efforts to develop the AML/CFT regime focused on the banking sector, and the NBC issued Circulars and Prakas to regulate the financial sector. The 2007 Law on Counterterrorism and the AML/CFT Law introduced a comprehensive asset-freezing system. Implementation began in 2008.

With U.S. assistance, Cambodian authorities monitored computerized border control systems at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, and at the land border crossing of Poipet and Koh Kong. U.S. officials also provided training to Cambodian authorities on crime scene investigation and methods for countering money laundering.

The Cambodian Government also cooperated with other regional governments on counterterrorism issues. Australia conducted a one-week work workshop on dissemination and implementation of counterterrorism law, as well as a workshop on implementing money laundering law. Officials from the Cambodian government attended workshops in China, India, Malaysia, and Singapore dealing with cross-border crimes and terrorism.

In May, the UN Counterterrorism Committee's Executive Directorate (CTED) conducted an on-site visit to Cambodia to monitor Cambodia's implementation of Security Council Resolution 1373. The committee's comprehensive final report included recommendations for improvements, and outlined Cambodia's technical assistance requirements to meet or exceed its counterterrorism commitments and goals.

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