Dozens of soldiers from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) in Banteay Meanchey province have filed a complaint with rights group Adhoc accusing their superiors of serious corruption, stealing veterans’ pensions, nepotism and illegal logging.
For three years, a representative of the soldiers said, they had tried to file their complaints against Banteay Meanchey’s RCAF commander, Brigadier General Phlorn Dara, and his brother-in-law, Keo Senglon, with numerous authorities but saw it repeatedly rejected or unanswered, before turning to Adhoc on Thursday.
“The reason we are lodging this complaint is that Brigadier General Phlorn Dara, our commander, and his brother-in-law, deputy commander Colonel Keo Senglon, used their power to commit corruption and exploit the property of the soldiers’ unit and cut soldiers’ salaries,” reads the 16-page complaint, which was thumbprinted by 39 RCAF soldiers serving as representatives of the whole of Banteay Meanchey’s provincial armed forces.
The complaint lists a plethora of crimes allegedly committed by Brig. Gen. Dara and Col. Senglon: cutting the salaries of soldiers, handicapped soldiers and veterans starting in 2005; adding ghost names to the payroll and allowing their relatives to collect the salaries; promoting family members to high positions; stealing trucks and fuel; bribing Thai soldiers to allow them to log rosewood across the border; and stealing donations from Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany.
“In February 29, 2009, they cut the salary of 734 veterans by 250,000 riel [or about $62.50] per veteran, totaling 183,500,000,” or about $45,875, the soldiers wrote
In October 2010, Brig. Gen. Dara and Col. Senglon cut 120,000 riel (about $30) from the salaries of 159 soldiers who became handicapped or veterans that month, totaling $4,700, the complaint continues, adding that a bag of rice was also stolen from each veteran or handicapped soldier.
In November 2010, they stole 220,000 riel, or about $55, from 163 veterans and handicapped soldiers, totaling about $9,000, as well as two bags of rice per veteran.
The names of the veterans, handicapped soldiers and soldiers whose salaries were compromised are listed in the complaint.
Brig. Gen. Dara and Col. Senglon are also accused of promoting their own relatives to positions along the Thai-Cambodian border.
“They promoted their relatives to positions and sent them to the Cambodian-Thai border to make good money, and Brig. Gen. Dara was inactive during his duty and only focuses on his business, allowing his brother-in-law to be in charge instead,” according to the complaint.
The two are also accused of ordering RCAF forces to illegally log rosewood in Thailand and bribing Thai soldiers.
“Both of them used the [RCAF] forces to sneak into the Thai forest to seek rosewood by paying 40,000 baht [about $1,200] in bribes,” the complaint reads.
Since 2010, the soldiers had sent the complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Defense Minister Tea Banh, RCAF Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun, RCAF Infantry Chief of Staff Meas Sophea, and the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU).
A representative of Banteay Meanchey RCAF soldiers, who holds the position of major but asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said that no one had ever followed up on their complaint, while the ACU rejected the complaint as the alleged crimes had been committed before the unit’s establishment.
“We are hopeless, so we went to complain to Adhoc in Banteay Meanchey,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Dara declined to comment.