During talks with Cambodian police last week, US government officials were broadly approving of Cambodia’s transnational police work, offering praise and encouragement, National Police Chief Hok Lundy announced on television Tuesday.
In a contentious decision, the US government admitted Hok Lundy for meetings on April 23 and 24 with officials from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and State Department.
In a 30-minute interview with CTN that was filmed on his return from the US on Sunday evening at Phnom Penh International Airport, Hok Lundy said the FBI officials he met said they were particularly pleased with Cambodian help in combating regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.
Hok Lundy said Cambodia forwarded intelligence to US and Thai officials which led to the 2003 arrest of Riduan Isamuddin, an Indonesian man better known as Hambali and reportedly the group’s head of operations.
“The FBI very highly praised the cooperation with Cambodian police that destroyed the JI group in 2003,” he said. “We are proud that although Hambali was arrested in Thailand, they acknowledged that Cambodian police participated.”
The FBI was also pleased with help in prosecuting Cambodian Freedom Fighters leader Chhun Yasith, who was arrested in the US in 2005, Hok Lundy said. A November 2000 CFF attack on government buildings in Phnom Penh left several of the group’s members dead and about a dozen police wounded.
“This shows that there is deep cooperation between Cambodian police and the FBI,” Hok Lundy said.
State Department officials said last week that at their April 24 meeting, Hok Lundy was directly confronted with concerns about human rights and trafficking in Cambodia.
Hok Lundy said that in the meeting he defended himself against criticism leveled by human rights workers, which were raised by a diplomat present at the meeting. In a statement on April 17, Human Rights Watch denounced the FBI for inviting Hok Lundy and called on the State Department to cancel his visa.
“The FBI told me there were some opinions that opposed my trip but the FBI questioned them,” Hok Lundy said. “In the end, those who opposed did not have evidence.”
SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua criticized the decision to admit Hok Lundy to the US, even if US officials also admonished him during their meeting.
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle wrote in an e-mail that the US is waiting to see progress before declaring last week’s visit a success.
“For our part, success would be measured by concrete improvements on human rights and trafficking issues in Cambodia, but it is too early to assess the effect of the Police Commissioner’s visit on these areas,” he wrote.