RCAF Major General Dom Hak has been appointed as deputy director general of the Apsara Authority, the government agency managing Angkor, officials said this week.
Apsara Deputy Director General Soeung Kong said the three-star military general would be in charge of a new security department to oversee the temples, and that he hopes Dom Hak will help protect cultural artifacts from being looted.
Dom Hak said Monday that he will also be looking out for illegal construction inside the Angkor Archaelogical Park.
“If the government doesn’t think I am qualified and thinks I’m a bad person, the government wouldn’t use me,” Dom Hak said.
Dom Hak has risen to prominence in recent months with his appointment to a new anti-corruption body headed by leading CPP government and military officials. But his new positions come after three years of relative obscurity and somewhat notoriety.
In October 2003, Dom Hak, who was then working for RCAF infantry military intelligence, was arrested briefly and charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with being an “accomplice” in a major heroin trafficking ring after the discovery of some 35 kg of the drug in a Tuol Kok district villa. He was arrested following statements by another RCAF military intelligence officer who was arrested at the villa. Now-disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov conducted the raid.
Charges against Dom Hak were eventually dropped due to a lack of evidence, National Military Police Deputy Commander Vong Pisen told reporters at the time. Dom Hak has denied ever being involved in any wrongdoing.
Soeung Kong said that Dom Hak’s brief brush with the law will not affect his ability to do his job.” I don’t think his previous background will affect his work,” he said.
Sam Rainsy Party leader Sam Rainsy questioned the appointment. “We should appoint people whose reputation has not been tarnished,” he said.
Nao Hayashi, chief of the Culture Unit at UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organi-zation, said she welcomed the appointment.
“I think this is a very good initiative because this department’s mission is to research and report every complaint to authorities about the illegal actions by cultural traitors,” she said. “Apsara has a mandate for operations at Angkor, but they are not police,” she added.