ACU Chief Dares Critics to Beat Sons at Spycraft, Skydiving

Faced with accusations of nepotism over the appointment of his two sons, Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) Chairman Om Yentieng on Friday challenged critics to face off with the pair in tests that would include liberating hostages, skydiving, and spying on terrorists.

Mr. Yenting’s sons, Yentieng Pu­thira and Yentieng Puthirith, were named as assistants to the ACU on Tuesday and given ranks equal to undersecretary and secretary of state, respectively—leading many to accuse the graft-fighting body of the very kind of practices it was designed to eradicate.

Speaking to reporters at the ACU’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Friday, Mr. Yentieng said the word “nepotism” did not accurately describe the appointment of his sons.

“Nepotism means that if someone is my relative, my colleague, or from my family—even they have no knowledge—I will appoint them, but others—even if they are very good—I will not appoint them,” he said.

Mr. Yentieng then went on to propose an elaborate journalist-monitored examination in which Facebook users who had criticized his sons would square off with Mr. Puthira and Mr. Puthirith in a slew of tests.

“Please, show up to take an ex­am with my sons. First subject: English,” he said. “Second: shooting a weapon, as well as fighting to free a hostage from terrorists and jumping from an airplane.”

The challenge appeared to draw from his sons’ experience as officers in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and—according to a 2009 U.S. State Department cable released by anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks—as department directors for the National Counter-Terrorism Committee.

Mr. Yentieng went on to boast that his sons were excellent marksmen—a talent that would be essential in liberating hostages.

“If you shoot the wrong target, they will shoot you dead,” he said, without explaining how this skill would be useful at the ACU.

The final stage of the proposed exam would test spying skills and knowledge of terrorist groups.

“Please, come to compete in investigating and collecting secret information,” he said.
“Please, describe ISIS and jihadi organizations…. What is different between ISIS and al-Qaida?” he asked, using an abbreviation for the Islamic State militant group. “Please, come to the exam. If you defeat my sons, I will give their [positions] to you.”

Mr. Yentieng ended with a warning to anonymous critics. “If you are anonymous, be careful. Some day you will fail,” he said. “Please don’t think that I will not react.”

San Chey, country director for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, a good-governance advocacy group, pointed out the irony of Mr. Yentieng’s speech, given that no exam or criteria was announced for the ACU assistant positions now occupied by the chairman’s sons.

“While there is no law to prevent nepotism in public institution[s], official[s] usually feel defensive to his or her decision making,” Mr. Chey said in an email. “It is human.”

(Additional reporting by Ben Paviour)

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