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New plan for ‘state secrets’

The Ministry of Interior announced a decision to draft a law to protect state secrets after meeting with Vietnamese defence officials yesterday, the National Police has announced.

According to a statement on the police website, Vietnam will support the training of government officials in encryption and cryptography as part of the new measures.

It says that the aim of the new law will be “to ensure that state secrets are well protected”.

“The ministry is pushing forward on a draft that will need to be passed by the Council of Ministers,” National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith was quoted as saying.

“And in the future, the ministry will draft another law on [encryption] and the [two] laws will protect all the state secrets in all areas.”

According to Chantharith, about 100 senior officials from the ministry are being sent to Vietnam to learn about encryption. They will undergo training for five years, he said, while another group of 100 will undertake a three-year program.

“Vietnam has pledged to continue to support Cambodia for these training courses,” Chantharith was quoted as saying.

The police spokesman could not be reached for further comment to explain why the ministry believed such a law was necessary.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak and Em Sam An, a secretary of state who was at the meeting with the Vietnamese officials, both also could not be reached.

Sok Touch, a political analyst, said he supported a law to protect state secrets as long as it was clearly drafted in “the national interest”.

“But if a neighbouring country like Vietnam is involved in drafting, I don’t really understand how that [would help protect] state secrets,” he said.

Opposition parliamentarian Mu Sochua said that her party would not support any law that “would violate the fundamental right to information”.

“This is against the principle of democracy … especially if it comes from a country like Vietnam that is a communist country with strict regulations, that has taken strong measures under so-called national security [purposes].”

She added that the definition of what exactly constitutes a “state secret” would have to be clear in the draft law to avoid restricting access to information.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH

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