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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Foreign minister’s role in KR prison examined

Foreign minister’s role in KR prison examined

WIKILEAKS cables have reignited debate over sensitive accusations repeatedly made by opposition party leader Sam Rainsy against Foreign Minister Hor Namhong over his alleged role at a Khmer Rouge prison.

In April, Sam Rainsy was found guilty of defamation and inciting discrimination against Hor Namhong and sentenced to two years in jail by a Cambodian court for public comments he made in 2008 alleging the Foreign Minister was a prison chief at the Khmer Rouge’s Boeung Trabek prison. But a conviction handed to Rainsy by a French court in 2008, which ordered him to pay a symbolic one euro penalty for similar comments he made in his autobiography, was overturned by the French Supreme court in April.

In a cable dated June 6, 2002, made public yesterday, an “undated, unattributed report on file” at the United States embassy is cited, which largely backs  Rainsy’s claims about Hor Namhong’s role at the prison.

“Hor Namhong came back to Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge took over, but was not killed because he was a schoolmate of Ieng Sary. He became head of the Beng Trabek [sic] camp and he and his wife collaborated in the killing of many prisoners,” the cable cited the report as saying.

However, a separate US embassy cable, also released yesterday, recounts an “impassioned” account from Hor Namhong of his experience at Boueng Trabek prison during a private meeting with then
Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli in May 2008.

“Hor Namhong recited an impassioned, almost tearful soliloquy on his travails as an inmate in the Khmer Rouge Boeung Trabek re-education camp located in Phnom Penh’s suburbs,” the cable reads. “Hor Namhong asserted that he was not a camp director, but eventually became head of a committee of prisoners in one of three adjacent camps,” the cable says, adding that the foreign minister also claimed to have evidence the Khmer Rouge had blacklisted him for execution.

The US cable suggests Rainsy was engaging in a “high-visibility slur campaign” with little evidence to back up his claims and expresses grave concerns that defamation and disinformation suits filed by Hor Namhong could have destabilised the 2008 election.  It also quotes Rainsy likening Hor Namhong to a “Kapo”, a reference to privileged prisoners in Nazi concentration camps used to control other inmates, during one of several meetings the ambassador organised. Hor Namhong could not be reached for comment yesterday; both his lawyer, Kar Savuth, and a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declined to comment.

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