The New Zealander who introduced a dubious NGO called Global-PAC to Cambodia this year has returned to the media spotlight in his home country for reportedly stirring up a spy controversy involving the indigenous Maori tribes.
Jack Sanders is implicated in a probe into allegations published in New Zealand newspapers this month that the country’s Security Intelligence Service was spying on Maori networks—a charge that Prime Minister Helen Clark denied as she announced the investigation last week.
Sanders was named in the New Zealand Herald last week as a primary source of the spy allegations, initially published in the Sunday Star-Times newspaper. He told journalists that he is well-connected in the spy world.
Along with fellow New Zealander Gerald Thorns, Sanders made waves in Phnom Penh in May after opening Global-PAC, which declared its specialty as high-tech surveillance of suspected pedophiles.
The two had meetings with the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking chief, Un Sokunthea, and the ministry’s Thong Lim, and claimed that British Ambassador Stephen Bridges could vouch for their work.
But doubts soon arose over the group’s legitimacy and speculation ran wild over its true motives. Mike Bush, a New Zealand police attache in Bangkok, said Monday he is still seeking contact with Sanders regarding Global-PAC “to see if they are bona fide.”
Thong Lim, Bridges and the Interior Ministry have all said recently that their ties to Sanders and Thorns were mostly one-sided and superficial.
Global-PAC has not reported any activity here since May, though NGO status has provided Thorns with a platform of sorts. In July, Thorns spoke at a conference in Tokyo on the smuggling of North Korean refugees, and cited his experience as executive director of Global-PAC.
Asked for comment Monday on the Herald articles on the Maori scandal, Sanders referred a reporter to a Web site posting in which his partner called Bush’s comments and the Herald articles part of a “smear campaign.”