Ministry Investigating Commander Who Treats Soldiers Like ‘Dogs and Cats’

Defense Minister Tea Banh said on Tuesday that officials were investigating the conduct of a brigade commander in Battambang province who has been accused of abuses ranging from pocketing food allowances to raping a cook.

“I have seen the letter and we are investigating,” General Banh said of an anonymous leaflet distributed in Battambang City listing the accusations against Mey Sainghorn, a two-star general and commander of Brigade 52.

“I recognize that some of the accusations in the letter are true, but some accusations are not true,” Gen. Banh added, declining to say whether Brigadier General Sainghorn risked being removed from his position. “There is no need for journalists to be concerned about removal because we know how to work,” he said.

The leaflets, created by anonymous soldiers under the general’s command, left on the streets, accuse him of mistreatment, taking their money and raping one of their wives.

“Mr. Sainghorn raped a cook who is the woman of a disabled militant, and everyone in the brigade knows about this case,” the letter said.

“This commander is immoral and incapable of managing the forces. He always yelled at us in front of other soldiers as if we were dogs or cats, even the deputy commanders,” it added.

“Sometimes, we bring him documents to sign. He signs them for us if he is happy, but if he isn’t he doesn’t sign them, yells at us and throws the documents on the ground.”

The letter also accuses Brig. Gen. Sainghorn of various acts of petty corruption including pocketing soldiers’ food allowances, stealing military gasoline and taking reparations paid by a Chinese company after a nearby dam flooded 15 hectares of the brigade’s land. The leaflet also urges Prime Minister Hun Sen to remove the general from his position.

Members of Brigade 52 were reticent to discuss the claims yesterday. “Mr. Sainghorn behaved as the accusations say in the letter, but I don’t wish to give comment on this case because we should let the Defense Ministry investigate,” said Kuch Neang, a colonel and deputy brigade commander.

Brig. Gen. Sainghorn said the leaflets were part of a ploy to remove him from his position.

“The accusation is not true,” he said. “Those people accused me because they wanted to topple me and take my position.”

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