CCHR President Dismisses Corruption Charges

Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Kem Sokha on Tuesday dismissed allegations of corruption and embezzlement at his organization, which have been publicly leveled at the center’s management by 16 former staff members.

Kem Sokha attributed the allegations to disgruntled former employees.

“There is no basis in truth,” he said. “These are persons who lost their jobs.”

The former staffers accuse CCHR officials of embezzling staff members’ pay. They claim as evidence letters that they wrote to Kem Sokha asking him to release detailed budgetary information, and the denial of those requests. They also claim that pay or benefits were unfairly denied to them.

“I saw many irregularities at the center,” former staffer Nhem Van­thorn claimed.

“For example, I was supposed to get a $30 per month in phone cards but they cut $10 out of it for no reason. This was embezzlement,” he al­leged.

Leading Khmer-language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper ran front-page stories about the allegations on Sunday and Tuesday.

CPP spokesman and In­for­ma­tion Minister Khieu Kanharith was in France Tuesday and de­clined comment.

The US government funds CCHR, and the US Embassy said it was aware of the claims.

“[W]e do not know the details of the allegations. We feel confident, however, that US government funding has been properly managed,” embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle wrote in an e-mail.

Daigle said that next year total funding for CCHR from the US government would be cut by about 25 percent to $660,000, prompting staff cuts.

“This reduction in funding is strictly a function of a tight budget environment in Washington and in no way reflects US confidence in CCHR’s programs or administration,” he wrote.

Daigle said that CCHR is regularly audited by an independent auditing firm, which he declined to name. “At this time, we have no reason to doubt the audits of CCHR’s financial records,” Daigle wrote.

CCHR spokesman Ou Virak said PricewaterhouseCoopers has audited CCHR and made only “minor” recommendations.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was also involved in regular audits of some of the government projects caught up in the multimillion-dollar World Bank scandal.

Senaka Fernando, auditing manager of Pricew­ater­house­Coopers, said he could not comment on audits of CCHR.

 

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