Muslim teachers: targeted for
Al-Qaeda links
An official spokesman at the Interior ministry said 44 people comprising the teachers, their wives and children had flown out of the country. Three remaining teachers would leave Phnom Penh on Monday.

 

The deportees are mostly from Thailand, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan and Pakistan.

 

With US Secretary of State Colin Powell due in Phnom Penh later this month for a regional security summit, the authorities are on their toes. More arrests and closures are to follow.

 

A predominantly Buddhist nation, Cambodia last week shut down the Om al-Qura Islamic school and charged three of its teachers - two Thais and an Egyptian - with suspected links to the armed Islamic group, Jemaah Islamiah.

   

The United States and some Asian countries believe the group has ties with Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

 

US-backed crackdown

   

Although authorities said on Thursday they did not have any evidence linking the school's other Islamic teachers to political activity, they were no longer welcome in the country. They had 72 hours to leave, a deadline which expired on Saturday morning.

   

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen confirmed that the crackdown had been ordered on the basis of intelligence operations with the United States.

 

In recent months, Washington had expressed concern at Cambodia's growing number of Islamic schools, funded by organisations in the Middle East.

   

Cambodia is home to a few hundred thousand ethnic Cham Muslims.

   

Its porous borders and poor law enforcement is considered an attractive hiding place for political activists on the run in other countries.