Cambodian authorities have widened an investigation into illegal arms dealings
after initial arrests and the seizure of two anti-tank weapons led
counter-terrorism police to believe a much wider network is operating in the
But Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the government
would remain prudent on releasing any information regarding the make-up of the
network, fearing police work would be undermined if sensitive details were made
He said the focus of the probe would remain on where the arms
cache - two Armbrust rocket launchers - came from and where they were going and
it was too early to say whether the haul was linked to any "terrorist" or
"We can't say anything because our police are working on
and investigating this case," Kanharith told the Post. "We should let our police
work finish. If we reveal anything at this time then the network will be cut
The names of three people arrested on April 4 after the arms bust,
coordinated by the intelligence department of the Ministry of Interior, have
been suppressed until charges are laid in court.
Police described the
three men as an Islamic Khmer, a Cambodian court clerk from northeastern Stung
Treng province, and a Cambodian male. Two were arrested in Chraing Chamras
village, 10 kilometers north of the capital, where the weapons were seized. The
third male was apprehended on Street 61 in Phnom Penh.
sufficient evidence to justify the arrests," said Khieu Sopheak, Interior
Ministry spokesman. "These weapons are new. We are trying to find out where
these weapons were bought and when these weapons were made."
shoulder-fired Armbrust carries similar firepower to a Rocket Propelled Grenade
(RPG) 7 launcher and is capable of disabling a tank. It was reportedly first
introduced to Cambodia through Singapore in 1989 after the Vietnamese
It has been described as a "delightful urban warfare weapon
of choice" because unlike the RPG 7, the Armbrust (German for crossbow) is a
recoilless gun with no back-blast and can therefore be fired comfortably from
within confined spaces.
They had also been shipped to Cambodia before the
eruption in 1997 of fierce factional fighting between forces loyal to Prince
Norodom Ranarridh and Hun Sen, who were then the first and second prime
Nearly three decades of war resulted in Cambodia
emerging as key transit point in the international weapons trade, which the
authorities have sought to curb since hostilities formally ended in
However, the emergence of Islamic militants in Cambodia with links
to the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network over recent
years has raised international fears that Cambodia is being used by militants as
a business haven.
This was highlighted by the arrest of Hambali, the
alleged mastermind of the October 2002 suicide bombing on the island resort of
Bali that left more than 200 people dead.
Hambali was arrested in
mid-2003 in Thailand. Intelligence and local sources later confirmed he had most
probably plotted the attacks on Cambodian soil, revealing he had lived in Phnom
Penh from mid-2002 until late January 2003.