CAMBODIA: Revelations of former police chief must be followed with investigations and suspensions
In mid-August Heng Pov, a former Phnom Penh police commissioner and advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen who is now hiding in a foreign country, issued a public statement and gave an interview to L' Express, a French weekly journal. In these he reveals that the government has itself been behind a number of big crimes committed over the last ten years, pointing the finger at Hun Sen himself and the National Police Commissioner, Hok Lundy. The incidents include:
1. The grenade attacks of 30 September 1995 on the premises of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party and a Buddhist monastery housing its supporters, where over ten people were killed. Heng Pov alleges that the attacks were carried out by subordinates of Mak Chito, the current head of the Criminal Investigations Department in the Ministry of Interior. He says that Hun Sen and Hok Lundy were behind the attacks.
2. The grenade attack on 30 March 1997 on a peaceful demonstration led by Sam Rainsy, now an opposition party leader. Four grenades killed nearly twenty persons and wounded more than 140 outside the National Assembly. Heng Pov, who was there at the time, claims to have seen four perpetrators running towards Hun Sen's nearby residence, two of whom he could identify as subordinates of the prime minister. He further claims that in 2003 one of the two men confessed to having thrown the grenades on an order from Hun Sen.
3. The killing of Secretary of State Ho Sok on 7 July 1997. Ho Sok was a senior FUNCINPEC party official who had taken refuge at the Embassy of Singapore after open warfare broke out between his party and the Cambodian People's Party of Hun Sen, and some 40 senior members and army officers of his party had been killed. He emerged after negotiations, only to be arrested and taken to his own Ministry of Interior. Heng Pov claims to have witnessed him being machine-gunned to death there by two men, one of whom reportedly told him that they had been sent by Hok Lundy.
4. The shooting of screen idol Piseth Pilika on 6 July 1999, which led to her death. Piseth Pilika is widely known to have had an affair with Hun Sen. Heng Pov claims that Hok Lundy had had an affair with her first and then introduced her to Hun Sen, whose wife blamed Hok Lundy for matchmaking her husband with the actress. He says that Hok Lundy made amends by promising to "separate" Piseth Pilika from Hun Sen, and that the killer was one of Hok Lundy's bodyguards.
5. The killing of former Member of Parliament Om Rasady on 18 February 2003, and trade unionist Chea Vichea on 22 January 2004. Chea Vichea was president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the biggest labour union in the country. He was a champion of rights for his fellow workers, and tens of thousands participated in his funeral procession. Heng Pov organised a press conference at the time to present two alleged perpetrators. However, an investigating judge released them for lack of evidence, and even the former King of Cambodia has said that they were not the real killers. The judge was himself then punished for making his decision, and the two were rearrested and sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment. Heng Pov says that he now also doubts that they were the real killers and that those who killed Om Radsady and Chea were the same men sent by Hok Lundy, working in an identical manner and with an identical gun.
6. The attempted murder of Koh Santipheap newspaper editor and publisher Thong Uy Pang on 8 June 1998. Heng Pov had previously himself been accused of the attempt on Thong Uy Pang's life as he prepared to pray at the grave of his parents in Phnom Penh. Heng Pov now alleges that one of Hok Lundy's bodyguards was responsible.
7. Smuggling of narcotics. Among other cases, in 1997 Hen Pov led the seizure of seven tons of marijuana belonging to the company of a senior businessman with close links to Hun Sen. Heng Pov claims that Hun Sen intervened to prevent the man's arrest.
In response to these revelations, which have gripped public opinion in Cambodia, the government has claimed that Heng Pov is wanted over the murder of a judge, three attempted murders and other crimes. It has issued an international arrest warrant for him and refuted all of his allegations, claiming that they have been made in order for him to obtain asylum abroad.
Heng Pov's allegations should be of grave concern to anyone bothered about the situation of Cambodia today. All of them are credible, given the extent of details and Heng Pov's inside knowledge and personal connections to so many senior persons and major criminal cases over the last two decades. And in none of the cases identified has there ever been a serious or reliable investigation leading to prosecution of the genuine perpetrators.
The criminal investigation authorities in Cambodia are obliged to treat Heng Pov's allegations with the utmost seriousness. They must now revive or reopen investigations into each of the abovementioned cases, among others. All accused persons should temporarily resign from their posts or be suspended pending the outcome of these investigations.
The Asian Human Rights Commission calls upon the King of Cambodia, the parliament, judiciary and government to take the necessary measures to see that these investigations are begun without delay. It also calls for Prime Minister Hun Sen, National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy and head of the Criminal Investigations Department Mak Chito to step aside or be suspended in the interim.
The AHRC also calls upon all key international donor governments and organisations to make the same demands upon the government of Cambodia, and review their operations in the country in view of these remarkable accusations, which ultimately go far beyond the specific incidents and persons identified and to the absolute impunity enjoyed by all government and law-enforcement officials in Cambodia, from the prime minister down. If the people of Cambodia are ever to obtain justice, it can come only with the ending of this impunity, from top to bottom.