Nov 14, 2012

Cambodia - A history of violence

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Systematic extra-judicial killings were directed and executed for decades by death squads established under Prime Minister Hun Sen’s regime and run by men who are now some of the highest-ranking members of government, a report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleges.

The report, Tell Them That I Want to Kill Them, unearths hundreds of cases of political killings investigated by the United Nations, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, rights groups and the media that are linked to individuals including chief of the Ministry of Interior’s criminal department Mok Chito and Central Security Directorate chief Sok Phal.

From the “A-teams” or death squads established in the 1980s to the grenade attacks on opposition parties in the 1990s, the bloody 1997 coup d’etat to the killing of Chut Wutty this year, the report outlines how alleged murderers have been promoted in the Cambodian People's Party-led government rather than prosecuted.

The government has said the report is a baseless, politically timed stunt intended to try and derail the ASEAN summit that begins on Thursday.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the farcical explanation for the death of fierce anti-logging activist Chut Wutty — an official investigation revealed he was shot by a military police officer who was then, accidentally, killed with his own gun by a man trying to disarm him — showed murders were rewarded by the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

“The fact that, for instance, Mok Chito is tapped to go down to lead the investigation and come up with a story to try to explain away the Chut Wutty murder shows that these people are still the go-to people for the CPP,” Robertson said.

“Somebody like Mok Chito, who is known to have a long association with the most senior people in the government and is known to have a reputation as someone who has repeatedly got their hands dirty for the CPP as an enforcer type, this is the type of person that... when this person says what the story is, everybody salutes.”

Wutty was killed on April 26 while investigating illegal logging in the Cardamom Mountains.

The report quotes a senior operative under the State of Cambodia, the regime that ruled Cambodia immediately after the Khmer Rouge, detailing how a secret death squad called A-92 was directed by Sok Phal and Mok Chito.

“When [senior police officer] Mok Chito or my unit discovered something or a target, we first had to make a report to our superiors. They take the decision to kill. Mok Chito was involved in lots of killings,” the anonymous operative is quoted as saying.

“Sok Phal was in charge of internal security, while Luor Ramin was responsible for foreigners. A-teams reported to Sok Phal, who reported to Sin Sen. Sometimes they went directly to Sin Sen.”

Sok Phal said yesterday he was very surprised to hear of the allegations against him.

“It is the first time that I heard people accuse me; I am always helping people,” he said, requesting a copy of the report before he could comment further.

Mok Chito, who, according to the report, was referred to by one US diplomat as “the ultimate fox in the chicken coop”, said he was at the gym yesterday and then switched off his phone.

Many others who were subsequently promoted to high-level positions in the CPP and government are named as having been involved in extrajudicial killings or death squads.

They include You Sin Long, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs; Heng Pov, who became Phnom Penh police chief and an adviser to Hun Sen until he was jailed on a slew of charges including extortion and murder; and Luor Ramin, who has also been promoted to the upper ranks of the NACD.

David Boyle and May Titthara

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