Ex-CCHR Staff To Lodge Corruption Complaint

Sixteen former employees of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights issued a statement Tuesday accusing CCHR President Kem Sokha of corruption and nepotism, a representative of the group said Tuesday.

Kem Sokha denied the allegations by the so-called “Commis­sion for Seeking the Truth of Staff Within CCHR,” and said the group is out to destroy his organization and its motives may be political.

All 16 members lost their jobs at CCHR in recent months due to a lack of funding, Kem Sokha said.

Head of the group, Nhem Vanthorn, said he plans to lodge a complaint against Kem Sokha at Phnom Penh Municipal Court. He denied he was working for a political party.

“I am only against the individual, we will help the center to survive,” he maintained.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the commission claimed that Kem Sokha has renewed contracts for his relatives and loyalists employed by CCHR, but terminated the employment of competent staff who he did not believe were loyal.

Six of 69 staff at CCHR are related to Kem Sokha, the group alleged.

Kem Sokha said the former staffers are disgruntled because they lost their jobs.

“These people have an agenda to destroy my center,” he said, adding that some of his relatives are on the CCHR payroll.

“They are qualified, they have only small positions,” he said, adding that he has not given his relatives an unfair advantage.

The International Republican Party funds CCHR.

The US Embassy said the former CCHR staffers have provided no evidence of wrongdoing but their report has been forwarded to CCHR’s independent auditor.

“If the auditor discovers malfeasance with CCHR’s finances, the US government will investigate the matter further,” US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle wrote in an e-mail.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Ngeth Sarath said the court must accept any lawsuit filed there and the prosecutor would decide whether to bring charges.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has in the past voiced staunch opposition to public forums organized by the CCHR, where members of the public are encouraged to air their grievances about the government.

In January, Kem Sokha was charged with defamation and jailed over a banner critical of the government that appeared at a human rights event in Phnom Penh. He was released later that month after intense international criticism.

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