Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has released letters he exchanged with then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011 over a leaked U.S. Embassy cable that stated he headed the Khmer Rouge’s Boeng Trabek camp and “collaborated in the killing of many prisoners.”
The longstanding claims against Mr. Namhong resurfaced earlier this month with the foreign minister’s lawyer requesting that a 2011 court decision, which sentenced opposition leader Sam Rainsy to two years imprisonment for making the claims in 2008, suddenly be enforced.
In his defense, Mr. Rainsy has noted a U.S. Embassy cable supporting his position, which anti-privacy group Wikileaks leaked in 2011, and Mr. Namhong on Tuesday night posted correspondence he had with Ms. Clinton after the leak.
In his letter to Ms. Clinton, which is dated July 18, 2011, Mr. Namhong says he was taken aback by the cable to Washington, which was written by the Phnom Penh embassy’s former deputy head of mission, Alexander Arvizu, accusing him of heading the camp.
“The report on my biography was shown to be undated and unattributed, yet Mr. Alexander A. Arvizu chose to send it to Washington,” Mr. Namhong wrote, asking why the embassy’s No. 2 diplomat had considered it necessary to send it to Washington.
“Was it part of a smear campaign orchestrated against me? An attempt to turn a prisoner who suffered deeply during the Khmer Rouge Regime, with more than 15 closest family members killed, into a culprit of the crimes committed by this brutal regime?” he asked.
“I am terribly disappointed that such a high defamatory indictment has been leveled against me by the second highest member of the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh,” Mr. Namhong concluded.
In a reply the next month, Ms. Clinton did not answer Mr. Namhong’s questions but expressed her regrets that the cables concerning Mr. Namhong’s role at the Boeng Trabek prison had been made public.
“I recognize the pain you express over such publications and regret the embarrassment it has caused you,” she wrote. “I want to make clear…that the United State deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential.”
“I cannot comment on any specific documents in the press that are purportedly of State Department origin,” Ms. Clinton said. “By its very nature, field reporting to Washington is preliminary and candid.”
“I can only ask that you work with me to move beyond this regretful development as quickly as possible, while fully understanding the personal pain you feel with the publication of such articles.”
The original U.S. Embassy cable appeared to provide substance to Mr. Rainsy’s claims against Mr. Namhong, saying that Mr. Namhong had utilized a relationship with the Khmer Rouge’s foreign minister.
“An undated, unattributed report on file at the embassy claims that: Hor Namhong came back to Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge took over, but was not killed because he was a schoolmate of Ieng Sary,” the leaked cable from 2002 reads.
“He became head of the Beng Trabek camp and he and his wife collaborated in the killing of many prisoners. Among the victims were the Queen’s sister Nanette and her husband Metevi,” the cable says.
“Hor Namhong almost killed Chem Sguon and his family [including Chem Widhya who was with his father in the camp] because someone heard Widhya listening to a French radio broadcast. The Vietnamese invaded just before the Chem family was to be killed.”
A separate letter dated Monday and written by Mr. Widhya, who was Cambodia’s ambassador to Germany until last year, was also posted to Mr. Namhong’s Facebook and rejects the cable’s claims.
“I deny that H.E. Hor Namhong had the intention to have the Khmer Rouge kill my late father and family,” Mr. Widhya wrote in his letter, noting that he was in the camp from January 1977 to January 1979.
“H.E. Hor Namhong and his family were themselves also prisoners like any others at the camps B32.”