The head of the FBI
on January 31 hailed Cambodia's role in the US "war on terror," as
the agency opened its first office in Phnom Penh amid rising concern over
Robert Mueller said
the relationship between the countries in addressing the threat from extremists
TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP
US Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli (L) and FBI head Robert Mueller cut the ribbon during the official opening of the bureau's permanent office in Cambodia, located inside the US embassy in Phnom Penh, January 31.
During a two-day
visit which included talks with his Cambodian counterparts, Mueller said, "The
exchange of information between our services has been second to none."
His trip, part of a
three-country Asian tour, came amid Washington's increasing efforts to further
ties with Cambodia, particularly in security.
officials have in the past expressed concern that Cambodia's porous borders and
weak policing could make it a haven for extremists.
"Cambodia is an
important country to us for the potential of persons transiting Cambodia, using
Cambodia as a spot for utilizing terrorism," the FBI director said.
The terrorist Hambali
– real name Riduan Isamuddin – who was allegedly a key member of the
Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah network, reportedly spent several months in Cambodia before being captured in Thailand in
follows a series of law enforcement exchanges, including Cambodian National Police
chief Hok Lundy's trip to Washington last April for anti-terror talks with the
Hok Lundy, who was
previously refused a visa to the US over alleged involvement in human
trafficking, was invited to Washington despite criticism from rights groups over
reported abuses by his forces.
Mueller said the
issues of weak policing and corruption were part of his talks with Cambodian
officials, but he added that graft was a problem worldwide.
His discussions with
Prime Minister Hun Sen ranged over topics such as training, forensics, witness
interrogation, and counter-terrorism.
He also said that
the FBI had investigated the 1997 grenade attack in Phnom Penh which killed 16
people and injured 150 including an American, Ron Abney, a former employee of a
US Government-funded organization, the International Republican Institute.
The incident was
classified as a terrorist attack by the US State Department.
Mueller said during
his visit that if any further information existed regarding the attack, he
would be happy to receive it.
Local media reported
that Sam Rainsy Party Deputy Secretary-General Mu Sochua said the FBI should
keep the case open by releasing whatever it has found.
In April 2004, the Post published details of a report that
allegedly implicated members of Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Force in the planning and
execution of the March 30, 1997 attack.
The Post referred to a September 1999 report
to the Committee of Foreign Relations of the US Senate. In that report, James
Doran, a staff member of East Asian Affairs said, “Members of Hun Sen’s
Bodyguard Force participated in the planning and execution of the March 30,
1997 attack [and] Hun Sen, being only one of two people with authority over the
Bodyguard Force, must have known and approved of the attack.”