Military Denies Receiving Request to Examine News Report

Senior officials at the Military Court and Ministry of Defense said Tuesday that they have not received a request from Council of Ministers Secretary of State Phay Siphan to investigate an article published in an opposition newspaper.

Mr. Siphan on Monday said he had submitted a complaint to the Military Court to investigate an article in Moneaksekar Khmer newspaper that reported on an interview given by CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha during a trip meet Cambodian-Australians in Melbourne last month.

Mr. Sokha suggested in the interview that the military had intervened the night of the July 28 national election to “rob” the CNRP of victory in the ballot.

Military Court deputy president Major General Pork Porn said that he had not received a complaint from Mr. Siphan.

“I haven’t received any complaint about this case yet,” Maj. Gen. Porn said, declining to answer further questions.

Lieutenant General Sam Vantha, Ministry of Defense general secretariat secretary-general, and Major General Pang Thearo, the ministry’s administrative affairs department head, also said they had not received a complaint.

Major General Mam Sophat, chief of the legislative department of the ministry, said that he had only heard reports of Mr. Siphan’s complaint through the media.

“I have not seen or received any documents,” he said.

Mr. Siphan has declined to name who he specifically sent his complaint to, and said it was not strange that no one at the Ministry of Defense was aware of the issue.

“They’re not in my office, they’re not on my staff, so they might not know what’s going on,” Mr. Siphan said, adding that the information was classified.

“I am an official in the government and this information belongs to the government. Be patient—this will be revealed by the court.”

Asked why he, as an official at the Council of Ministers, had taken a personal interest in clarifying the meaning of a newspaper article, Mr. Siphan said that he also holds a position as an operational leader of the “Inter-Ministerial Unit in Charge of Battlefield Information.”

“This unit is under the Interior Ministry and was established by Prime Minister Samdech Decho Hun Sen and has an office in the Council of Ministers,” he said.

“I am the permanent vice president of this unit and this unit’s job is very clear—it is to watch all the news about the military and to protect national security forces.”

Mr. Siphan cited the collection of military news “in case there is armed conflict with Thailand” as part of the mandate handed to his unit by the prime minister.

“It was made to work with the military forces, and there is one, two or three [military] staff who sit in my office,” he said. “It’s media relations between the armed forces and my unit and monitors media related to national security.”

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