Ministry of Defense Backs Accused RCAF Officials

The Ministry of Defense on Monday said that a complaint filed against a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) commander in Banteay Meanchey province for alleged corruption and other crimes had already been resolved in 2011.

On Friday, provincial RCAF soldiers informed local rights group Adhoc of their previous complaints to courts and government officials, in which they accused Brigadier General Phlorn Dara, commander of RCAF in Banteay Meanchey, and his brother-in-law, deputy commander Colonel Keo Senglong, of a plethora of crimes that included cutting the salaries of soldiers, handicapped soldiers and veterans, stealing RCAF property and adding ghost names to the payroll.

Former provincial deputy commander Van Chhom, a representative of the soldiers, turned to Adhoc on Friday, saying that the complaints had gone unanswered for several years by both courts and government officials, including Minister of Defense Tea Banh and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

However, Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said Monday that the ministry’s inspection department had in fact investigated the case several years ago and found both Brig. Gen. Dara and Col. Senglong to be not guilty.

“His Excellency Minister [Tea Banh] ordered the inspection department in the Ministry of Defense to investigate on February 23, 2011, but we did not find any guilt of Mr. Dara,” Mr. Socheat said.

News reports alleging that Secretary of State General Neang Phat and Bun Seng, commander of military region 5, which covers Battambang, Pailin, Pursat and Banteay Meanchey provinces, were backing Brig. Gen. Dara were also wrong, Mr. Socheat said.

“We don’t want the public to have a confused understanding about the case because it is not new,” he said.

“Mr. Bun Seng, commander of the military region 5, and Secretary of State Neang Phat are not behind Mr. Dara,” Mr. Socheat said, adding that Mr. Chhom and other RCAF soldiers still had the right to file a complaint with Adhoc if they were unsatisfied with the Ministry of Defense’s investigation.

Van Soeung, a soldier who also thumbprinted the complaint, said Monday that he had never heard of an investigation and was unsatisfied with the ministry’s response.

“I think the investigation stopped without respecting the law, because they protect the advantages of individuals. Mr. Dara is a master thief at the border and the superiors just…solved the problem for him,” he said, adding that the soldiers are working to prepare a formal complaint to submit to Adhoc.

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