FM Asks for Proof to Act Against Smuggler

Foreign Minister Hor Nam­hong said Friday he would dismiss anyone in his ministry helping traffick Chinese nationals through Cambodia, but first he needs proof.

Responding to a question during an interview at his office, Hor Namhong said he would like to learn more about accusations linking a diplomat posted abroad to the immigrant smuggling network that allegedly involves Cam­bo­dian officials.

“If I have the proof, the gentleman who is dealing with this matter will be dismissed from his job,” Hor Namhong said.

First Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh Chea Sophara has said a Cambodian diplomat posted abroad is one of the key facilitators in the scheme, which authorities say garners tens of thousands of dollars monthly for unscrupulous officials.

“I would like to meet Sophara to ask him to give me the proof, to prove who is involved,” Hor Namhong said.

The municipal governor has said he does not want to accuse the diplomat by name publicly but meticulously described his involvement as overseeing armed men who have been meeting Chinese nationals at the Vietnam border for years and transporting them to Phnom Penh, where they wait for travel documents enabling them to leave Cambodia for other nations.

Several Interior Ministry and military officials have corroborated Chea Sophara’s claims against the diplomat but asked not to be named for fear of retributions.

More than 470 Chinese nationals have been taken into custody from Phnom Penh safe houses since Aug 19. However, not one arrest of those providing assistance to the illegal immigrants has been made.

Chea Sophara said Sunday that he did not want to get into a disagreement with the Foreign Affairs Ministry but noted ministry officials had not contacted him about the mass arrests of illegal Chinese immigrants. “The ministry has not taken action for a long time,” Chea Sophara said.

Additionally, possible links of Foreign Affairs Ministry officials to the network emerged when a Chinese national was arrested Sept 28 at Pochentong Airport attempting to enter Cambodia with 40 Chinese passports. The passports had valid, three-month visas issued from the Cambodian Consulate in Guang­zhou in southern China, officials said.

Police speculated that the woman carrying the passports, 33-year-old Ren Hongli, was bringing the travel documents to Chinese nationals already in Cambodia. Chum Sunary, the foreign affairs ministry spokes­man, said Thursday that the ministry was still investigating why the consulate in Guangzhou issued visas to people that likely were in Cambodia illegally.

Ren Hongli remains in custody at Immigration Police headquarters, an Immigration Police official confirmed Sunday.

National Police Director General Hok Lundy said last week that any government officials found involved in the trade will be punished. But the Muni­cipal Court has alleged that its investigative activities are being obstructed by powerful officials.

(Additional reporting Kevin Doyle)

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