Afesip Blames Official in Response to Charges

Any blame for the Dec 7 raid on the Chai Hour II Hotel and the sub­sequent detentions of 83 wo­men and girls at a women’s shelter run by the anti-trafficking NGO Afe­sip should be laid at the feet of Na­tional Police Commis­sioner Hok Lundy, the organization said Wednesday.

Hok Lundy should be held re­spon­­sible because he signed off on a re­quest from the Interior Minis­try’s an­ti-trafficking police to raid the ho­­tel, Afesip said in re­sponse to char­ges by Foreign Minis­ter Hor Nam­hong that Afe­sip ap­peared to illegally confine some of the women and girls taken from the hotel short­ly before they were broken out of the shelter Dec 8.

Afesip also accused Hor Nam­hong of professional misconduct in making what it said were biased com­ments that could prejudice the results of the government’s in­vestigation into the events of Dec 7 and Dec 8.

“Afesip refuses to accept being used as a scapegoat for this case,” Afesip’s legal adviser Aarti Kapoor said at a news conference.

Speaking in Paris, Hor Nam­hong was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying on Mon­day that the Afesip case was com­pli­­cated “because among the 80 wo­men, there are many who it seems [were] taken away and illegally confined by this NGO.”

Pierre Legros, Afesip’s former dir­­ector and now consultant, warned Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday that the government’s handling of the case was put­­ting Cambodia’s image and future development at stake.

“From a simple story of pimping, it’s becoming a political issue which could bring Cambodia into huge trouble,”  Legros said at a news conference.

“The US, the UN and the World Bank are supporting Afe­sip,” he added. “I’m asking the prime min­ister to take into considera­tion that this issue is going to the highest political level in the world.”

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said he was too busy to answer questions Wednesday.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Hor Nam­hong’s remarks do not ap­pear to be part of the official con­clu­sion of the interministerial com­mit­tee. But he warned that Afesip could face legal action if it is found to have illegally detained the women.

“Those who break the law must be [punished] by the law,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, the Minis­try of Women’s Affairs announced the upcoming start of the second stage of a three year anti-trafficking in­i­tiative funded with $800,000 from the US Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Development. The US Em­bas­­sy declined to say whe­ther the handling of the Afesip case will af­fect USAID sup­port for anti-trafficking projects in Cambo­dia.

Ministry of Women’s Affairs Sec­retary of State You Ay declined to com­ment on the case on Wednes­day. Repeated phone calls to Hok Lundy were unsuccessful.

(Addi­tion­al reporting by Kay Kimsong)

 

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