Graft Unit Grills Rights Workers; UN Stays Away

The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) questioned officers of local human rights group Adhoc late into the evening for a second straight day on Thursday over claims that they had instructed the alleged mistress of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha to deny their affair.

It followed the imprisonment of an opposition commune chief in Kompong Cham province on Wednesday for allegedly paying the supposed mistress, Khom Chandaraty, $500 to lie and say that she and Mr. Sokha had not had a sexual relationship. CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann said on Wednesday that the money came from concerned Cambodians in New Zealand and was meant only for Ms. Chandaraty’s mother, out of concern for her poverty.

Thida Khus, the head of women's rights group Silaka, leaves the Anti-Corruption Unit's headquarters in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Thida Khus, the head of women’s rights group Silaka, leaves the Anti-Corruption Unit’s headquarters in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

After two months of denials, Ms. Chandaraty, also known as Srey Mom, admitted to an affair with Mr. Sokha during questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last week over charges of prostitution and perjury. She accused the commune chief, Adhoc staff members, a U.N. official and a women’s rights advocate of convincing her to lie.

Each had supported Ms. Chandaraty in her ordeal with authorities but refuted accusations that they had made any attempt to have her deny an affair.

On Thursday, the ACU called back three of the four Adhoc officers it had questioned the day before, along with the rights group’s senior investigator, Lim Mony; National Election Committee deputy secretary-general Ny Chakrya; and Thida Khus, the head of women’s rights group Silaka.

Mr. Chakrya and the four Adhoc officers were still at the ACU’s headquarters in Phnom Penh late last night.

Ms. Khus was released shortly after midday and told reporters she had denied Ms. Chandaraty’s accusation under questioning by ACU Chairman Om Yentieng.

“He asked me whether I had an in-depth relationship with Srey Mom. I told him that I did not have an in-depth relationship with her. My work is to promote women’s rights and to defend women’s rights,” she said.

“He asked me whether I ordered her to speak contrary to the facts…. I work as a human rights officer, I am a member of a civil society organization—I do my job as normal,” she said.

“He still asked me if I advised Srey Mom directly or indirectly to say anything different from the facts, but I did not,” she said. “I just came to clarify, and he said he has not accused me of anything yet.”

Ms. Khus said she knew nothing of the fate of the Adhoc officers still inside because she had been kept separated from them.

Contacted at about 10 p.m., Adhoc president Thun Saray said he did not expect the ACU to release his officers before today.

“I think [there is] no hope that they let my colleagues go back home tonight,” he said. “Om Yentieng called me at 6 [p.m.]; he said it [would be] difficult to let my colleagues go back home tonight…because he [would not] like my col- leagues to talk to each other during the questioning.”

“The questioning is too much—too long,” Mr. Saray said. “It [is] not good to question like this.”

Mr. Yentieng could not be reached for comment on Thursday. He has warned those summoned for questioning that they could face arrest if they did not present themselves voluntarily.

Despite the warning, U.N. official Sally Soen stayed away on Thursday.

Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the U.N.’s human rights office, confirmed that Mr. Soen did not appear for questioning at the ACU, claiming immunity.

“He did not go to questioning,” she said. “Sally Soen is an officer of the United Nations and is covered by the Convention on the [Privileges and Immunities] of the United Nations. The United Nations is in communication with the government on the matter.”

Ms. Lee declined to comment further.

Outside the ACU’s headquarters, about 70 people had gathered by the afternoon to denounce the investigation, which the unit has been pursuing with unusual zeal and publicity, prompting claims of political influence.

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