Heng Pov Tells Court of Police Power Struggles

As his hearing at the Supreme Court continued Wednesday, disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov gave testimony related to his 2009 conviction for conspiring to murder national military police commander General Sao Sokha in 2003.

Mr. Pov was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the murder plot, just one of a slew of convictions following his arrest in 2006 that earned him a 98-year jail term.

On Wednesday, he elaborated upon his testimony on the first day of his hearing Tuesday, saying he had been framed for the crimes by a high-powered clique inside the Ministry of Interior.

Mr. Pov described his close working relationship with Prime Minister Hun Sen, who informed him in a late-night telephone conversation that his archrival, former National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy, was angling for his removal as police chief.

“During that time, I had many problems with National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy,” Mr. Pov told the court. “At midnight on January 10, 2005, Samdech Hun Sen called me and told me that Hok Lundy did not want me to work as Phnom Penh police chief any more.”

Hok Lundy died in a helicopter crash in 2008, but prior to his death, the much-feared police commissioner’s son married Mr. Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana. Mr. Pov told the court that during the same phone call in 2005, he tendered his resignation to spare Mr. Hun Sen family tension.

“Samdech Hun Sen wanted to promote me to deputy national police commissioner but I told him that I could not, as I would still be under Hok Lundy,” Mr. Pov said, adding that the prime minister rewarded him instead with a promotion to undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry and the promise of a secretary-of-state position to follow.

“But after that, I was arrested,” he said.

Mr. Pov has maintained that the attempted murder of Gen. Sokha was fabricated. He told the court Wednesday that he remains on good terms with Gen. Sokha, who he claimed was pressured by Hok Lundy to frame him.

“I think that Sao Sokha also followed Ta Dy [Hok Lundy], because at that time, Ta Dy scared everyone,” Mr. Pov said, going on to criticize the fact that Gen. Sokha was allowed to lead the investigation and interrogation of the suspects in his own murder attempt.

Gen. Sokha could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but military police spokesman Kheng Tito denied that Hok Lundy had ever applied pressure on his boss.

“This is not true, no torture was carried out and Excellency Sao Sokha was never under pressure from Excellency Hok Lundy’s power at that time,” he said.

U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks in 2011 reveal how the U.S. Embassy viewed the infighting within the Ministry of Interior around the time of Mr. Pov’s arrest.

“If the [Cambodian] government had been prudent, they would have not allowed Hok Lundy’s personal vendetta against [Heng Pov] to override a careful weighing of the pros and cons associated with [his] arrest and trial,” reads a cable dated August 24, 2006.

“No matter how one examines this issue, Cambodia’s government still looks bad when its top police officials are launching serious accusations and countercharges against one another that go back more than a decade.”

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