Orphanage Director Disputes US Terror Claims

The director of a Phnom Penh orphanage accused of terrorist affiliations yesterday disputed claims in leaked US government cables that Cambodian authorities had taken law enforcement actions against his organization.  

According to leaked US State Department cables published this week by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, US officials have pleaded with Kuwaiti authorities to take action against the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, designated by the US Treasury Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

In talks with Kuwaitis, US officials have cited actions supposedly taken by other countries, including Cambodia’s 2004 conviction of Sman Esma El for terrorist collusion with a Jemaah Islamiyah leader.

However Deputy National Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Sok Phal yesterday denied that there had been communication between US and Cambodian authorities on the allegations against RIHS.

“There was not,” he said.

Sos Mohammat, director of the Kuwait-Choam Chao Orphanage Center, which is funded by RIHS, said he did not agree with US officials’ claims.

“They did not shut down the center after an investigation did not discover any involvement with terrorism,” he said. “The allegations of terrorism happened long ago. The Kuwaiti organization and Kuwaiti government solved that problem already.”

Mr Mohammat said that, with Mr Phal of the National Police, he was also a member of a Battambang province CPP political team.

“Sman Esma El’s arrest occurred after he spent a week teaching at the center. The center did not know his previous activity during his study in Thailand,” he said.

According to a December 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Kuwait published Tuesday by WikiLeaks, Kuwaiti authorities in April of that year said they had contacted the governments of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russia, Bangladesh, Albania and Kosovo, all of which had denied US claims that they had raided or closed RIHS offices.

The Kuwaiti government “has yet to receive reports of wrongdoing from any of the countries where RIHS operates” and will not take action on US allegations without evidence, a Kuwaiti official was quoted as saying in a cable by Richard LeBaron, then the US ambassador to Kuwait.

In an April meeting with Patrick O’Brien, then the US Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for terrorism finance, the Kuwaiti official, whose name is withheld by WikiLeaks, waved “a sheath of documents” but “did not present any papers containing hard evidence.”

The leaked cables did not include US government reports on RIHS but said US officials had continuously shared information on RIHS with the Kuwaitis since 2002.


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