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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fury over Sin Song's trip to US

Fury over Sin Song's trip to US

A former minister, implicated as a leader of last year's short-lived secession

attempt and an organizer of CPP death squads, was granted a visa by the US to

attend a meeting last week presided over by President Clinton.

Sin Song's

trip to Washington was met with outrage by some Cambodian legislators and

embarrassment by the US government.

The former Minister of National

Security was invited by Sen Howell Heflin to attend the National Prayer

Breakfast in Washington on Feb 3 , an event attended by President


The National Security portfolio gave Sin Song control of secret

police and security forces in the former SOC government prior to the elections

last May.

Firm evidence emerged in early 1993 that Sin Song was abusing

his position by coordinating squads of secret police tasked in assassinating and

intimidating political opposition, UN investigators, human rights activists, and

opposition party officials say.

More than one hundred opposition party

activists were killed or wounded in the months prior to the May polls in what UN

investigators say was an orchestrated campaign by agents of the Cambodian

People's Party.

A US state department spokesman in Washington confirmed

on Feb 2 that Sin Song was granted a visa.

The spokesman said it "was

reviewed very carefully by the Department, in consultation with other interested


He added: "The department determined that, based on available

evidence, Sin Song did not fall under any of the visa ineligibilities set forth

in our immigration law."

US officials say they had no evidence that Sin

Song was directly implicated in terrorist activities.

But former UNTAC

investigators, contacted by the Post, said "we had firm evidence that the

Ministry of National Security, which was headed by Sin Song, organized secret

groups to undermine and destroy the political opposition."

An internal

National Security Ministry document seized by UNTAC last February and obtained

by the Post, outlined the function of one such secret unit.

The document,

authenticated by UN investigators, spoke of secret police units charged with

"creat[ing] misunderstanding among the popular masses about the opposition

party; to ferment activities that undermine their reputations and interests; to

create contradictions and splits among their forces, and to use pre-emptive

methods to prevent the opposition parties from gaining advantage in the


In addition, the National Security Ministry document referred

to special units whose function was to "carry out special duties according to

the requirements of the upper echelons."

It went on to say the secret

units, referred to as "a-92" forces were situated within the overall command of

the Ministry of National Security.

Within days of the CPP coming second

in last year's polls, Sin Song, along with a small group of renegade leaders,

declared that they had seized military control of seven eastern


Hundreds of UN officials fled these provinces after they were

threatened by the renegade army and police, and opposition figures say that more

than a dozen of their supporters were executed.

The secession attempt

fizzled in June after it became clear that the leaders had little popular

support, and Sin Song fled to exile in Vietnam.

He soon returned and now

lives in Phnom Penh again.

Despite its failure, the secession bid was

instrumental in forcing the CPP's opponents to cede control over key areas of

the government, security forces, and army.

Sin Song holds no position in

the Royal Government, but remains a senior official of the CPP.


Ahmed, a member of the National Assembly condemned Sin Song's trip to the US as


He added: "If the American government invited him to the

US, it means that the American government recognizes him as a Cambodian leader.

"How many people lost their lives because of Sin Song, and now he is an

official guest of the US?

"Maybe the U.S. government thinks he is a

Cambodian leader, but the Cambodian people and the ministers of Parliament say

no way."

Sin Song is now attempting to get co-opted onto the National

Assembly but many Cambodian parliamentarians are fighting the move.


resigned as a candidate days before the polls were held, and his name was

removed by United Nations officials, who said he was not eligible to


" According to election laws, if you resign you cannot come

back," Yahya Ahmed said.

In Washington, the office of Senator Howell

Heflin confirmed that they had invited Sin Song to visit the United States and

requested that the State Department issue him a visa.

"We put in a

request to the State Department asking his visa be granted asking them to give

him every consideration," Heflin's spokesman Tom McMahon told the Post


"It is up to the State Department to decide whether to issue the visa's

or not, " he said.



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