Minister Says Kidney Program is Not Secret

Defense Minister Tea Banh on Wednesday denied that a kidney transplant training program at the Preah Ket Mealea military hospital is a secret, though he refused to provide details of the program, which police suspected earlier this week of being at the center of an organ trafficking ring.

Gen. Banh publicly revealed the program this week after anti-human trafficking police questioned the hospital’s director, Lieutenant General Ly Sovann, and deputy director, Major General Keo Davuth, over a suspected kidney trafficking network.

Mr. Banh and the generals claim the kidney transplants taking place at the hospital were part of a training program in partnership with the Chinese government and the participation of volunteer Vietnamese patients.

Police, who say they launched an investigation into the hospital on the back of a Facebook post claiming that illicit surgeries were taking place there, dropped the case after the generals assured them that nothing was awry.

Gen. Banh would not reveal Wednesday how the Vietnamese patients were recruited or whether any money was involved in getting consent to extract organs of patients at the hospital, which would violate the human trafficking law.

“That is not necessary,” he said of revealing details of the patients. “This program is not secret; it is training for [our] military doctors.”

But at the hospital, inquiries about the program were not welcome.

Maj. Gen. Davuth, the hospital’s deputy director, scurried away from reporters and locked himself in his office. Security guards then ordered reporters off the grounds.

“This case has already been resolved,” said one guard. “So why are you looking for a story?”

An Ann, deputy chief of administration at the hospital, said doctors from the Vietnamese Army accompany patients to the hospital.

“I cannot tell you [more]”, she said, “because it is secret of the military.”

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