He spent 14 years as National Police Commissioner. He rose to become the 20th most senior member of the CPP and one of the most powerful allies of Prime Minster Hun Sen. But the late Hok Lundy leaves behind a controversial legacy.
Less than a day after the helicopter crash in Svay Rieng province that killed Hok Lundy—alongside RCAF Lieutenant General Sok Sa Em and pilots Tep Setha and Horn Rotha—critics and supporters alike debated how the late chief of police will be remembered.
Some pointed to Hok Lundy’s progression up the ranks of the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea in the 1980s and the CPP in the early 1990s. He began his political career on the party’s Svay Rieng provincial committee, but would eventually serve as the province’s CPP governor. He then left politics for police work, and his years in charge of the state’s most powerful security apparatus was a 14-year period, during which the country experienced some of its worst moments.
CPP colleagues, however, remembered Hok Lundy fondly Monday.
“We have peace,” CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said when asked to comment on Hok Lundy’s legacy.
“This is Hok Lundy’s achievement so far. People are living in safety and security. He was capable of protecting the security of the country,” he said.
Interior Ministry officials shared that sentiment: “Four gold stars Hok Lundy, our national police commissioner, was a good leader to our national police who ensured national security,” said Mok Chito, the Ministry of Interior’s penal police chief.
“Despite obstacles, he was the longest-serving leader of our national police,” Mok Chito added.
Critics, however, pointed to years of human rights abuse allegations against the police, and opposition party leaders frequently called on Hok Lundy to step down, particularly in the wake of the police investigation into the January 2004 assassination of union leader Chea Vichea.
In 2005, Hok Lundy was denied a US visa to attend a police conference because of alleged links to human trafficking, an allegation which he and his supporters strenuously denied. However, by 2006 Hok Lundy was awarded a medal by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for his efforts to “fight terrorism.” And, by 2007 he was a guest of the FBI in Washington, where he attended a meeting on anti-terrorism efforts.
“After Hun Sen, he was probably the most feared man in Cambodia,” Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams wrote in an e-mail sent Monday from London.
“Hok Lundy was as nasty as they get,” wrote Adams, whose list of alleged wrongdoings by the country’s late chief of police is long.
“At the same time, Hok Lundy’s death does not exempt his cronies or his superiors from their culpability,” he said. “Cambodia’s record of intractable impunity for rights abuses and its culture of violence extends beyond” one man, he added.
Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy said Monday that he expected that the quality of police work in Cambodia would, in fact, deteriorate, following the passing of Hok Lundy.
“Following the sudden death of National Police Chief Hok Lundy, I am afraid the slow and erratic investigations, if any, into the murders of many innocent people in this country, will become even more problematic,” Sam Rainsy said.
Sam Rainsy said there are “approximately 80” killings of politicians, activists, judges, monks, celebrities, union leaders and journalists that remain unsolved.
As the chief of National Police, Hok Lundy must have known a lot about the crimes and their investigations, Sam Rainsy said, adding that he hoped the cases wouldn’t now end with the police chief’s demise.
“I’m hoping the next police chief will stick to principles of justice and do all they can to make sure justice will be served and the security of all Cambodians will be equally protected,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
At about 7 am Monday morning, government officials named Deputy National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun, who is married to a niece of Hun Sen, and was long tipped to replace Hok Lundy, as the acting national police commissioner.
The government is now working to determine who will permanently take over the country’s top police job, said Sok Phal, who is also a deputy national police commissioner, and Chea Pov, an RCAF general and who was until recently an adviser to Hok Lundy.
Cheam Yeap also said Monday that Hun Sen and CPP President Chea Sim have already chosen a permanent replacement, though he declined to reveal a name.
Many are now waiting in anticipation of that announcement.
(Reporting by Yun Samean, Saing Soenthrith and Katie Nelson)