PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—Cambodian authorities on Friday kept a tight watch over vital installations here, posting policemen at nearly every corner ahead of what the Philippine ambassador described as the “mother of all summits” to be attended by world leaders.
The expected star of the show is US President Barack Obama whose attendance at the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit and related summits is taken as a reflection of the growing importance of the bloc, which will try to mend rifts caused by maritime tensions with China.
“The security is much tighter than in April (for the 20th Asean summit, also held in Phnom Penh) since it has been announced that President Obama is coming,” Philippine Ambassador to Cambodia Noe Wong said.
Police carrying truncheons on Friday patrolled all major roads and intersections, including Russian Boulevard facing Peace Palace, venue of the Nov. 18-20 meetings.
A platoon of security forces in black uniform and brandishing assault rifles marched in file along the busy thoroughfare before entering the summit venue.
Military jeeps carrying heavily armed officers cruised the streets alongside tuktuk rickshaws and motorcycles favored by the locals.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, also the government spokesperson, told Xinhua news agency that 10,000 security forces, excluding security details brought in by the arriving heads of state and government, were deployed to safeguard the summit.
Nearly 2,000 journalists from 40 countries have registered with the information ministry to cover the summit, he added.
Other leaders who will attend the summit are the heads of Asean countries, as well as of their partners, including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Cambodia’s spokesperson said.
Asean groups the Philippines, the host Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Laos and Vietnam.
During a courtesy call by reporters from the Philippines on Friday, Wong noted that it would be Obama’s first visit to Cambodia, and there was excitement about how his presence could serve Asean ends.
On the Philippine side, Wong said there was an undercurrent of hope that the US president could boost the Philippines’ position on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute with China, considering the “special relationship” between the two allies.
Although President Aquino, who arrives here on Saturday, is not scheduled for any bilateral meeting, Wong said there would be plenty of opportunities for the leaders to have informal talks during breaks in the program.
“There will be windows for bilateral talks, considering how many coffee breaks there are during the meetings,” he said.
Mr. Aquino is expected to raise a number of concerns at the summit, chief among them the drafting of a binding code of conduct that will guide negotiations between claimants to territory in the West Philippine Sea.