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FBI to set up office in Cambodia

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
National Police Chief General Neth Savoeun (centre) and General Department of Immigration director-general General Kirth Chantharith (second from right) are pictured with FBI field agent John D. Wilson during the visit to Washington DC in April last year. Police

The National Police said yesterday that the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation will set up an office at its headquarters in Phnom Penh after a joint task force was established, a move that will enhance the rule of law in Kingdom.

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The move came amid frosty ties between the Kingdom and the US over some issues in recent years. The latest tension was the demolition of a facility funded by the US at Ream Naval Base.

Academicians said the move could improve bilateral relations and confidence between the two countries.

National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun said yesterday that the FBI will set up its office inside the National Police headquarters after the two sides established a joint task force to fight transnational crimes between the two nations.

“We have cooperation with the FBI and we already signed a Memorandum of Understanding to fight against transnational crimes, especially locating fugitives,” he said. “We agreed together to set up an FBI office here for coordinating work.”

Lt Gen Kim Khoeun said the representatives of the FBI and National Police, General   Department of Immigration and other related authorities have cooperated well to fight a series of crimes.

He noted the “task force” cooperation was established last year but the FBI has no office in the National Police.

“We have been working with the US for many years, but it was just case by case, we have exchanged information between each other, such as providing feedback regarding suspects of child sex abuse or other high risk fugitives,” he said. “But we don’t have the specific mechanism, and now we have it.”

However, Lt Gen Kim Khoeun could not specify the date of opening the FBI office, saying the office will be located inside the National Police headquarters.

“Additionally, the US helps to train our law enforcement on some technical expertise,” he said. “The task force will benefit both sides.”

During his five-day visit to the US in April last year, National Police Chief General Neth Savoeun led a delegation to discuss cooperation on security issues at the invitation of the FBI.

During the visit, the National Police and FBI signed an MoU to create a joint task force to combat terrorism and cross-border crimes.

The MoU was signed by Gen Savoeun, General Kirth Chantharith, director-general of the General Immigration Department and Christopher Wray, director of the FBI in Washington DC.

According to the National Police, under the agreement, the US will provide training and technical equipment to the National Police to support the cooperation. It was the first MoU on cooperation signed between the National Police, General Department of Immigration and the FBI.

In an email to Khmer Times yesterday Chad Roedemeier, US Embassy spokesman, confirmed the joint “task force” formation but did not say when the FBI office will open.

“Our law enforcement cooperation makes both our countries safer,” he said.

He said the memorandum of understanding between the two sides was signed last year and is aimed at fighting a number of crimes.

“The FBI and the Cambodian National Police signed a memorandum of understanding in 2019 to create a joint task force to fight crimes against children, organised crime, financial crimes and money laundering and locate international fugitives,” he added. “That task force is now operational.”

“Responsible law enforcement cooperation is an important part of our bilateral relationship. This task force will enhance the commitment to support the rule of law in Cambodia and will help protect the Cambodian people,” he noted.

Kin Phea, director-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, yesterday welcomed the move.

“It’s a good move to improve bilateral relations and restore trust-building and confidence between the two countries,” he said. “We have to acknowledge that the two countries have some differences in certain areas but it does not mean that the two countries have different views on everything all the time.”

Phea said the two nations should prioritise any sectors that can boost and intensify relations and cooperation between them, and should not be “hostages” of the past events.

“I think that there are so many good things that the two countries can use to mend their frosty relations. It’s imperative that the two countries respect one another’s sovereignty, independence and respective national interest,” he said. “The principle of non-interference in internal affairs is very important for stable, close and strong relations and cooperation between countries.”

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