Outspoken anti-corruption activist Nhem Vanthorn said Tuesday that he would leave the country today to further investigate his undocumented claims that senior Cambodian officials are storing $800 million in Singaporean bank accounts.
“I would like to keep this issue on hold for the moment,” said Nhem Vanthorn, director of the Khmer Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Organization. “But it does not mean I am giving up. I’m not afraid to fight against corruption.”
Last month, Nhem Vanthorn repeated his claims that US investigators discovered 26 bank accounts in the names of the wives of high-ranking Cambodian officials. He said the money was likely connected to corruption and only a small amount of it was clean. “The 26 accounts—until this day—have been divided into 120 sub-accounts. In the sub-accounts, they have been put under names of import-export and other companies,” he said last month.
Nhem Vanthorn said he lacks documents to prove his accusations, but could obtain them if he were to face legal action or arrest.
Adhoc human rights official Ny Chakrya welcomed the news of Nhem Vanthorn’s decision to leave the country, saying it is the best way to protect Nhem Vanthorn against threatening phone calls made by unidentified individuals. The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee is investigating the validity of the threats, allegedly made in October.
“We want him to leave because we are concerned about his safety,” Ny Chakrya said.
Ny Chakrya said Nhem Vanthorn will stay in Thailand and possibly fly to Singapore, where human rights organizations will care for him. Nhem Vanthorn will meet various anti-corruption agencies from Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore to uncover documents proving the existence of the accounts, Ny Chakrya said.
Officials from the Cambodian government and Singaporean Embassy in Phnom Penh have denied the allegations, calling them politically motivated. Nhem Vanthorn has challenged officials to investigate the claims and offered to go to jail if proven wrong.