The wife of former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov and three of her sons have been granted political asylum in Finland, the Finnish Embassy in Singapore said Monday.
Citing human rights concerns, Finland’s Foreign Ministry has given Ngin Sotheavy a one-year residency permit, Finnish Attache Katariina Hautamaki-Huuki said.
Cambodian authorities had been seeking to arrest Ngin Sotheavy for the alleged possession of counterfeit US currency.
“She has already left Singapore and she is currently in Finland,” Hautamaki-Huuki said by telephone from Singapore, adding that Finland agreed to resettle the four family members at the request of the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Finland in December also offered an entry visa on human rights grounds to Heng Pov, but his five-month bid for political asylum ended abruptly when Cambodian officials in Malaysia arrested and deported him to Cambodia.
Heng Pov is currently in Prey Sar prison, where he is serving an aggregate sentence of 25 years for murder and illegal confinement.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak condemned the decision, saying Finland had again accepted a criminal suspect.
“I think it is ridiculous and it will affect the good image of UNHCR and also of Finland,” he said.
“Why are they interfering into the internal affairs of the Cambodian court?” Khieu Sopheak said. “We’re upset.”
UNHCR spokeswoman Inge Sturkenboom said her agency was unable to comment on specific cases.
However Hautamaki-Huuki said Finland was making no judgment about the truth of either Cambodia’s claims or those of Ngin Sotheavy and Heng Pov.
“Of course there are many sides to it, but I have to repeat that from Finland’s point of view Finland is not taking any sides in this,” Hautamaki-Huuki said.
N Sivananthan, a Malaysian lawyer currently representing Heng Pov in a case stemming from his controversial deportation from Malaysia, said that Ngin Sotheavy had been fleeing politicized charges in Cambodia that were now “a standing joke” in Malaysia.
Cambodia’s Interior Ministry announced in February it was seeking to arrest Ngin Sotheavy in connection with $30,000 in reportedly fake US currency found during a July 31 police raid on Heng Pov’s Takhmau town villa.
Sivananthan has claimed the charges were an attempt to pressure Ngin Sotheavy into ending the court case against three Malaysian officials whom Heng Pov has accused of illegally conniving in his premature deportation from Malaysia.