Rights Leader Resigns Amid Integrity Concerns, Criticism

Suon Bunsak, secretary-general of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), stepped down from his position on Tuesday amid mounting criticism of his leadership.

In recent months, Mr. Bunsak has been accused of requesting a bribe from a private consultant to the group, manipulating a controversial land settlement and costing the committee funding due to donor concerns.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bunsak said he officially resigned as the leader of the 22-member coalition.

“I have resigned from CHRAC, so I don’t want to provide any comment after leaving CHRAC,” he said.

CHRAC steering committee members declined to comment.

The first controversy came in late March, when Mr. Bunsak allegedly proposed “privately” making a $1,500 payment to consultant Billy Chia Lung Tai in order for Mr. Bunsak to sign off on his project, Mr. Tai said on Tuesday.

In April, Mr. Bunsak attended controversial settlement discussions between CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company and displaced villagers in Kompong Speu province—despite CHRAC not having been involved in the resolution.

“CHRAC was not part of the sugar working group, and his presence at that forum was a bit strange,” said Eang Vuthy, executive director of the NGO Equitable Cambodia, which was assisting in the discussions.

The next month, 200 families accepted $500 settlements, leading to concerns Mr. Bunsak had influenced them.

“NGOs had already been working on and had a different conclusion on the settlement,” said Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. “I see it as raising concerns.”

In July, Norwegian People’s Aid halted its $35,000 annual contribution to the rights group, citing a need for CHRAC to “regain our trust,” country director Aksel Steen-Nilsen told The Phnom Penh Post.

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