Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said on Friday that the government does not plan to react to the publication of shocking allegations of state-sponsored violence made by Heng Pov and printed in the latest edition of the French newsmagazine L’Express.
Khieu Kanharith also said that the article was politically motivated and claimed that a writer for L’Express, France’s largest-circulation weekly newsmagazine, is working for the Sam Rainsy Party.
The minister said that he did not know whether Prime Minister Hun Sen plans to sue the publication for defamation.
“One of the writers in L’Express works for the opposition party. It is the same person who wrote articles supporting the Khmer Rouge before,” Khieu Kanharith said without elaborating on the person’s identity.
“The government will not have any reaction because [Heng Pov’s case] is being investigated by the court,” he said.
In the L’Express interview, fugitive former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, who is wanted for allegedly murdering a judge, makes disturbing allegations against Hun Sen, national police commissioner Hok Lundy, National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha, Interior Ministry Penal Police Chief Mok Chito and other security officials.
SRP Secretary General Eng Chhay Eang denied his party engineered the article.
“L’Express is a professional magazine,” Eng Chhay Eang said, adding that whether a relative of Sam Rainsy’s works at the publication has nothing to do with the party.
This is not the government’s first clash with L’Express.
In October 1999, L’Express printed accusations that senior officials were involved in the assassination of much-loved dancer and actor Piseth Peaklica. Hun Sen’s office issued a strong denial, noted that a relative of Sam Rainsy worked at the magazine and threatened to sue the publication in Paris and Phnom Penh. It was unclear whether a lawsuit was ever filed.
Sylvaine Pasquier, who conducted the interview with Heng Pov for the magazine, was expelled from Vietnam in April 2000 after she attempted to contact political dissidents, according to the French organization Reporters Without Borders.
Pasquier had declined to request a press visa for Vietnam to avoid government obstruction of her reporting.