Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay denied Monday that he was ever a spy for Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Hun Sen lashed out Saturday against an unnamed individual in a nationally broadcast speech in Phnom Penh, saying that he had documentation to expose the man as one of his former spies.
“He tried to curse Hun Sen to be famous, but he forgets that he was my little spy,” Hun Sen said, adding that he had revealed the identity of his spy at a meeting of the Council of Ministers on Friday.
Several government officials present at that meeting said on Sunday and Monday that Hun Sen had named Son Chhay.
Council of Ministers CPP Secretary of State Bun Uy said that the prime minister told those in attendance that he had paid Son Chhay $10,000 to act as his agent.
“Samdech Hun Sen said Son Chhay was his spy,” Bun Uy said.
Ministry of Tourism CPP Secretary of State Thong Khon, who was also present at the meeting, confirmed that Hun Sen had named Son Chhay.
In his speech, Hun Sen said that the spy had begged him not to make his evidence public.
Son Chhay, however, challenged the prime minister to substantiate his allegations.
“I would like to get him to produce any evidence,” Son Chhay said. “What do I know about spying?” he added. “I have nothing to fear, let him show what he has.”
Son Chhay admitted to accepting $10,000 from the CPP-led government in the months following the July 1997 factional fighting that brought the CPP to power. The money, he said, was compensation that all parliamentarians received at the time.
But several members of the 1997 parliament contacted Monday said that no such payments were ever handed out. Others said money was promised by the CPP to lawmakers to build support for the early-August election of Funcinpec’s then-Foreign Minister Ung Huot to the first prime minister position replacing Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
Son Chhay said that he was out of the country when Ung Huot was elected and that the money he received came without any conditions.
“I was told that [it was compensation], but I was never asked to do anything else,” he said.
Son Chhay said that Hun Sen’s spy allegation was retaliation for comments he made about CPP Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong earlier this month regarding the minister’s handling of Finland’s granting a visa to the recently jailed Heng Pov.
Hor Namhong blasted Finland for offering the visa to the disgraced former police chief, accusing the Scandinavian country of being a haven for Cambodian criminals.
At the time, Son Chhay said that the foreign minister’s reaction to Finland was “childish.”
In his speech Saturday, Hun Sen attacked his unnamed “spy” for criticizing Hor Namhong.
“He is rude and called Hor Namhong childish and the government childish,” Hun Sen said.
“He doesn’t know how tall the sky is and how long Hun Sen’s hands are,” the prime minister said. “You can talk but not too much,” he added.
Son Chhay said that he was well within his rights to be critical of the foreign minister. He added that it was inappropriate for Hun Sen to make such remarks.
“It cannot continue to have the prime minister to be saying that kind of thing,” Son Chhay said. “To discredit a person is unacceptable…[Hun Sen] has to respect and abide by the law and the Constitution,” he said.
Son Chhay added that if he had made similar allegations against the prime minister he could expect to be hit with a defamation lawsuit and “thrown in jail.”
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that Hun Sen did not identify the spy in his speech on Saturday. Asked about his reported identification of Son Chhay at the Council of Ministers, Khieu Kanharith said he did not attend the meeting and could not comment.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said Monday that he fully supported Son Chhay and trusted his colleague 100 percent.
“I have no concern over my colleagues’ loyalty,” he said.
Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, said that, regardless of the allegations, Son Chhay has never exhibited any love for the ruling party.
“He has never been pro-government,” he said.