Anti-Graft Group Mired In Scandal

A little more than a year after the president of the Khmer Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Organ­i­zation was removed amid charges of corruption, three founding mem­bers accused his replacement Thursday of stealing small amounts of money from the organization.

Board members Pen Vano, Vong Vanna and Lim Ky Eng al­leged KHRACO’s acting president, Heng Kim Seng, and its secre­­tary-general, Som Sophatra, “cheated the organization’s interests and made us…an embarrassment to donors.”

“Corruption inside the anti-corruption NGO must not be al­lowed to happen,” said Lim Ky Eng, who said he had evidence of the corruption, though he refused to show it to reporters Thursday.

The three accusers said the president and secretary-general regularly cheated KHRACO out of small amounts of money. Heng Kim Seng and Som Soph­atra both denied the allegations. Heng Kim Seng blasted the allegations as political maneuvering by the three to take over the organization.

“I believe that the three of them have no right to handle or lead KHRACO,” he said Thursday.

Som Sophatra also denied the allegations. “I’m not even in a position to deal with money,” he said.

KHRACO was formed in 1999 to expose government corruption, but has itself been rocked by reports of scandal in recent years.

In March 2003, founding members ousted then-president Nhem Vanthon for similar misdeeds, accusing him of skimming money off the bills for various events.

KHRACO receives funding from the British government, its mem­bers said. John Mitchell, deputy head of mission at the Brit­ish Embassy, did not return calls Thursday.

Toung Naren, a human re­sources official with the aid group Cooperation Internationale Pour le Developement et la Solidarite, which worked regularly with KHRACO, was surprised by the latest mudslinging.

“I thought they sorted all this out. Who can believe this organization again?” she said.

(Addition-al reporting by Daniel Ten Kate)


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