TRANSNATIONAL crime has been allowed to spread while the world has been busy tackling the global financial crisis, Interior Minister Sar Kheng told a gathering of senior police officials at a regional security conference in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.
Roughly 200 senior police officers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations attended the ASEAN Chiefs of National Police (ASEANAPOL) conference Tuesday, at which Sar Kheng urged them to step up cooperation against cross-border crime.
“While the whole world is busy solving the economic and financial crisis, our common enemy – transnational crime – has had the opportunity to broaden its network by exploiting targets and vulnerable groups,” Sar Kheng said during his opening address.
His remarks touched on concerns about terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and economic crime.
“These activities have seriously affected the social stability, resources, the lives of people and law enforcement forces,” said Sar Kheng, without citing examples of how these areas had been negatively affected.
Sar Kheng said this week’s conference, which concludes today, is intended to send a signal of commitment among ASEAN nations to combat transnational crime as well as expand cooperation on the issue.
Sar Kheng hailed what he described as ASEAN’s previous success in striking agreements on fighting terrorism and mutual legal assistance.
In November, ASEAN nations pledged to create a regional immigration database to catch criminals and terrorists who traverse international borders.
“Up to this time, ASEAN as an organisation has developed noticeably, especially in identifying a unified vision ... to become a peaceful, stable and developed region,” he said.
Sar Kheng also trumpeted a three-year-old partnership between ASEANAPOL and the international police organisation Interpol that has seen the two agencies share intelligence on suspected criminals.
“The cooperation between ASEANAPOL and Interpol has been developing in a positive direction,” he said.
“The signing of the historic agreement between these two institutions three years ago on promoting information exchange ... has served the interest of law-enforcement agencies in the search to arrest criminals.”
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said cooperation has already benefited the Kingdom, and that various accused criminals have been repatriated to Cambodia after their arrests in other ASEAN nations.
Among those criminals is Heng Pov, the feared former Phnom Penh municipal police chief who was arrested in Malaysia in 2006 and sent back to Cambodia.
He has since been sentenced to more than 90 years in prison for a slew of charges, including extortion, kidnapping and murder.
Khieu Sopheak said Tuesday that cooperation among ASEAN nations has also led to other arrests.
“Heng Pov was not the only case of arrest,” Khieu Sopheak said. “We arrested many others who fled the country for their criminal behaviour, and we do it under the framework of law enforcement.”
Delegates at this week’s ASEANAPOL conference are expected to discuss a range of security issues, including drug trafficking, arms smuggling, human trafficking, maritime fraud, commercial crimes, bank crimes, credit card fraud, cyber crimes and transnational fraud.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP