Rights Group Says Anti-Corruption Unit’s Claims Baseless

Adhoc president Thun Saray on Tuesday defended his rights group’s pro-bono legal representation of the alleged mistress of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha, who last week rescinded her denials of the affair and accused Adhoc staff of convincing her to lie.

Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) Chairman Om Yentieng has summoned five of Adhoc’s rights workers, a U.N. official, an election administrator and a women’s rights advocate for questioning this week over Khom Chandaraty’s claim they urged her to lie about the affair.

Adhoc president Thun Saray speaks during a press conference at the organization's headquarters in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Adhoc president Thun Saray speaks during a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Ms. Chandaraty, a 25-year-old hairdresser, made the accusation in a public letter last week after rescinding her denials on April 19 while being questioned for charges of prostitution and false testimony leveled by anti-terrorism police, who are investigating the affair. Mr. Saray called a press conference on Tuesday to combat the claims.

“I want to ask all of you journalists. When she came to meet us and was scared—telling her true story and asking us to help her and protect her honor—if you were us, who have 25 years’ experience on such affairs, what would you do?” Mr. Saray asked.

“If we did not accept her complaint or told her to go back home, we would have no virtue, and many people would have criticized our group,” he said.

Mr. Saray played a portion of Adhoc’s initial interviews with Ms. Chandaraty from last month, showing her detailing her story to Adhoc staff, including denials that she had an affair with Mr. Sokha.

The Adhoc president said his group’s lawyers had given Ms. Chandaraty a total of $204 to support her during questioning by authorities, per standard procedure when they take on a case, and then questioned why the national anti-graft body was investigating.

“We just provided her with legal advisers based on what she told us,” Mr. Saray said.

“What we understand is that the ACU investigates people who steal state money, but for us, we did not take any state money, so why is the ACU summoning us like this?” he said.

Mr. Yentieng declined to comment on Mr. Saray’s remarks.

Following the press conference, Adhoc’s deputy head of monitoring, Yi Soksan, who has also been summoned by the ACU, said the organization routinely accepted whoever came asking for help.

“In principle, when people come to file complaints with us at Adhoc, we usually accept, whether it’s land-grabbing, a human rights case, human trafficking or rape,” he said, adding that something was amiss.

“I think if Srey Mom’s case was a normal case, the ACU and the government would not be involved.”

The other three summoned for questioning over the alleged affair include Thida Khus, head of women’s rights NGO Silika; Ny Chakrya, National Election Committee deputy secretary-general and a former senior Adhoc official; and Sally Soen, who works at the U.N.’s local human rights office.

Mr. Yentieng on Sunday arrested an opposition commune chief who he says promised Ms. Chandaraty’s family $500 to deny the affair. The corruption czar has threatened to make more arrests in the case if necessary.

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