NGOs, Embassies Decline Gov’t Invitation

Embassy representatives and NGOs are declining to participate in the government’s inter-ministerial investigation into the Dec 8 raid on the Afesip’s women’s shelter, gov­ernment spokesman Khieu Kan­harith said Thursday.

The government had hoped em­bassies and NGOs would ei­ther help the committee investigate or observe the probe to en­sure it is conducted lawfully and that witnesses are not pressured, Khieu Kanharith said.

“The embassies and NGOs don’t want to participate,” he said.

“We invited all the NGOs, not just Afesip,” he said. “How much more transparency do they want?”

NGO staff are welcome to act  “like journalists embedded with US troops in Iraq” in the in­vesti­gation, Khieu Kanharith added.

The Human Rights Action Com­­­­mittee, a group of 18 NGOs, turned down the in­vitation be­cause it is conducting its own probe, said Kek Ga­labru, founder of Licadho, which chairs the com­mit­tee. “We don’t use [the government’s information. We’d like to have our own findings,” she said.

So far, the committee has only been al­­lowed to speak to three wo­men em­ployed at the Chai Hour II Ho­tel, in interviews conducted on the premises, Kek Ga­labru said. “We are not very sat­is­fied,” she added.

Deputy Prime Minister and co-Min­ister of Interior Sar Kheng gave an update on the government probe to officials from West­ern embassies Wednesday, Pierre Legros, Afesip director said. Offi­cials from the British, US, Aus­tra­lian and French embassies at­tend­ed the update, two sources fa­mil­iar with the case said.

The British and Australian em­bassies did not return phone calls seeking comment on the meeting, while the US Embassy declined comment. Karaoke and massage fa­cilities at the hotel were closed Thursday, though se­nior police and municipal officials said they were uncertain why.

The hotel referred ques­tions to lawyer Yin Wengka, who said he was unaware of the closure, but ad­ded that only the Phnom Penh Municipal Court has the right to shut the hotel. “If it is closed, it means the hotel is guilty, so it can’t be closed,” Yin Wengka said.


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