Alleged text messages from a pro-CPP pundit appear to show him thanking Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, Hun Manet, for helping him secure citizenship while pledging his lifelong support to the ruling CPP and plotting its victory in the coming elections.
Joseph Matthews, a Pakistani national married to a Cambodian woman, has been one of the rare voices among political commentators who aren’t Khmer but pontificate squarely on the side of the long-ruling CPP. In interviews with local media, he has defended the party and rebuked its critics, sometimes echoing the government’s own talking points.
In an interview with The Cambodia Daily in December, a week after securing Cambodian citizenship, Mr. Matthews defended his credentials as a pundit.
A human resource trainer with no academic background in Cambodian history or politics, he said he made up for any lack of formal bona fides with an ear to the ground, a steady news diet and years of experience teaching in the country.
According to a leak of some of his alleged text messages, he has at least one other qualification: personal political strategist for the Hun family.
The messages appear to show Mr. Matthews offering detailed plans for CPP victory in coming elections and then fawning over Lieutenant General Manet and his father in thanks for his new citizenship.
Contacted on Wednesday by the telephone number attributed to him in the alleged leaked texts, Mr. Matthews was flustered when asked to confirm the messages.
“No, no, no, no, no. Nothing, sir, nothing,” he said, and then hung up.
Mr. Matthews has not answered further calls to the number seeking clarification.
Lt. Gen. Manet could not be reached via the numbers attributed to him in the alleged leaked texts, which do not include any messages from him.
The alleged texts were forwarded to the media on Wednesday by former CNRP President Sam Rainsy, who received them from “Angkor Borey,” an apparent alias. Angkor Borey has not replied to emails requesting comment about the alleged texts, and Mr. Rainsy said he did not know who was behind the email account or whether the texts were authentic.
In a message allegedly sent to Lt. Gen. Manet in October, Mr. Matthews asks him for help getting his citizenship application approved.
“Dear Manet: My case file of Khmer Citizenship is now in PM OFFICE waiting for his approval and endorsement. I have had asked Mr. Ah Luch help; but he suggested me to talk to you. So; I request you for your kind assistant [sic] in this regard,” it reads.
In another alleged message in December, Mr. Matthews thanks Lt. Gen. Manet for his help, the nature of which is not explained.
“Dear Manet: Please accept Our (I and my wife) immense Gratitude for helping me to get a Khmer Citizenship. Today I have received a Royal decree confirming my Khmer Citizenship. Now; I am officially Cambodian citizen; the credit of this honor goes to you and Samdech Techo [Mr. Hun Sen]. From now~on I will be remained under your Obligations and glad to take any responsibility or task you would be entrusted to me. You are the Man of your Word. The same like your father. It will be an honor and a privilege for me to work for you and Samdech Techo for the rest of my life,” it says.
Though having no known direct or official oversight of citizenship applications, Lt. Gen. Manet is believed to be his father’s chosen successor and, besides his lieutenant general’s rank in the military, holds a number of top posts, including deputy chairman of the military joint staff and commander of the National Counterterrorism Special Forces.
Months before securing his citizenship, Mr. Matthews allegedly peppered Lt. Gen.Manet with plans for helping the CPP secure victory in this year’s commune elections and the national contest next year.
“Dear Manet:” an alleged message from September begins, “I have written a proposal that can become a part of our Election Strategy 2017-18. The Proposal is on subject: ‘HOW TO MAXIMIZE THE PERSONAL CONTACT OF SAMDECH TECHO WITH COMMUNITIES LIVING IN REMOTE; UNDEVELOPED AND INACCESSIBLE AREAS?’ It is a new but pragmatic proposal. If you want I can mail to you or suggest me ntherwise. Joe.”
Then in November, while his citizenship application was still pending, Mr. Matthews allegedly sent Lt. Gen. Manet another plan.
“Dear Manet:” it says, “L have just sent an email about: PSYCHOLOGICAL TACTICS : FEAR FACTOR ! part of our election strategy.”
Sok Eysan, a spokesman for the CPP, said he did not know if the messages were genuine, but accused the CNRP of playing a “poisonous trick” against the ruling party. He said he did not know who Mr. Matthews was.
“I don’t know him and have never heard his name,” Mr. Eysan said.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)