The Cambodian director of a local Islamic NGO funded by a Kuwait charity that is on a US watch list for bankrolling al-Qaida denied any links to the international terror group yesterday.
“I would like to clarify that my organization has done everything for the sake of the children and is not involved in terrorism,” said Sos Mohammat, director of the Good Sources Cambodia Organization, which runs 10 orphanages.
He added that the Kuwait charity that funds his organization, Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, has been cleared of links to terrorism by the Kuwaiti government.
RIHS was identified by the US Treasury Department in 2008 as having provided “financial and material support” to al-Qaida and al-Qaida affiliates, including regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.
The Treasury Department stated that assets held by the RIHS in the US were frozen and that US citizens were prohibited from conducting any financial transactions with the charity.
Mr Mohammat said his organization has received $12 million from RIHS since 1993. RIHS representatives check in each year, he added, but the organization reports to the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
After a heavily criticized trial, Sman Esma El, a Cambodian Cham Muslim who once worked at one of Mr Mohammat’s orphanages, was sentenced in 2004 to life in prison along with two Thai men for plotting to bomb the US and British embassies in Phnom Penh, while an Egyptian was released due to a lack of evidence.
An official at that orphanage on the outskirts of Phnom Penh said after the arrest that the former employee had just been a temporary worker.
According to the US Treasury Department, RIHS also supplied an escort in Cambodia to former JI leader Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, who was the supposed mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings and reportedly lived in Cambodia in 2002.
The US considers Cambodia’s Cham community to be peaceful, but in the past has worried that it could be radicalized, a US Embassy official said yesterday.
“The Cambodian Cham population is a peaceful, tolerant group that is well integrated into Cambodian society,” embassy spokesman John Johnson wrote in an e-mail. “We have raised concerns in the past that some organizations seek to change that and spread a violent, intolerant form of Islam in Cambodia.”
The government and local Muslims “should ensure that the NGOs providing funds are properly vetted and that the assistance is going to projects that will benefit the intended communities,” he wrote.
Mr Johnson did not respond to a question on whether the US is monitoring a RIHS-affiliated organization. Multiple officials at the Ministry of Interior said they had no knowledge of the Good Sources Cambodia Organization.
“I have no information about that,” Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said.
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