New York-based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday denounced the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for inviting Cambodian National Police Chief Hok Lundy to Washington and called on the US State Department to cancel his visa.
Hok Lundy is scheduled to meet with FBI officials in Washington on Monday to discuss law enforcement cooperation.
“Hok Lundy’s alleged involvement in political violence and organized crime in Cambodia means that the FBI should be investigating him, not hosting him,” Right Watch’s Asia Director Brad Adams wrote in a statement.
In the statement Rights Watch alleged that the national police chief has been involved in serious human rights abuses, including conspiracy in the 1997 grenade attack and commanding forces that were implicated in extra-judicial killings during the 1997 factional fighting.
Senior members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP and Interior Ministry officials staunchly defended the national police chief.
Deputy National Police Chief Mao Chandara challenged Human Rights Watch to publish any evidence it possesses to implicate Hok Lundy in wrongdoing.
“Do they have evidence? If they do, please show the public,” Mao Chandara said.
National Assembly President and Honorary CPP President Heng Samrin said that Hok Lundy was innocent of the allegations and that higher party and government officials bore responsibility for his actions.
“Hok Lundy is a CPP member. I will be responsible before he is. I do not believe he committed the crimes,” Heng Samrin said.
Several attempts to contact Hok Lundy directly were unsuccessful on Tuesday.
Deputy National Police Chief Sok Phal said Tuesday he had not seen the Rights Watch statement and therefore would not comment.
Sok Phal said he, Hok Lundy and a delegation of five others are scheduled to meet with FBI officials in the US on Monday and Tuesday after rescheduling a visit planned for Thursday. He said he was unaware of whom the delegation would be meeting or what they would discuss.
Rights Watch also charged in its statement that the US government and FBI are themselves aware of Hok Lundy’s alleged activities.
“Treating Hok Lundy like a respected law enforcement officer is something out of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” Adams asserted in the statement.
“By inviting Hok Lundy to discuss the rule of law and effective police enforcement, the US government is likely to breed cynicism among Cambodians about its commitment to human rights and political reform,” he added.
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle could not be reached Tuesday, and the Embassy remained closed in observance of the Khmer New Year.
In recent emails regarding Hok Lundy’s US visit, FBI spokesman Stephen Kodak said that it was “standard protocol to invite foreign chiefs of police to conferences whose topic impacts on their part of the world.”
The FBI had invited Hok Lundy to attend the fourth International Conference on Asian Organized Crime and Terrorism in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 1.
But in a March 28 telephone interview Hok Lundy said he decided to send Interior Ministry antiterrorism department chief Bith Kimhong to the conference in his place as he planned to meet with the FBI instead.
“[FBI] cooperation is very important and will take time,” Hok Lundy said in the interview.
The FBI invitation followed statements in February 2006 by John Miller, then director of the US State Department’s office on human trafficking, who claimed that due to US suspicions of Hok Lundy’s involvement in human trafficking he had been denied an entry visa to the US.
Cambodian government and police officials strenuously denied Miller’s allegations at the time.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said the FBI invitation could inspire cynicism.
“Cambodians understand that the United States have their own interests but they wish for the United States not to sacrifice their principles to their interests,” Sam Rainsy said.
(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)