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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hockry sweating out his future

Hockry sweating out his future

Deadline for Interior Minister October 19

C O-INTERIOR Minister You Hockry is convinced he will go to prison if his parliamentary

immunity is lifted by the National Assembly.

"I will have to fight so that [my] immunity cannot be removed because if I go

to the courts they will find me guilty whether I am guilty or not...

"Cambodia's judiciary is not independent..." he said as he perched on the

edge of a comfortable couch in the sumptuous lounge of his newly restored French-colonial

villa.

"I think that if the court works independently and follows the right procedure,

I can show my innocence..."

His voice trails off. He is clearly agitated - he jiggles his right leg as he rails

against Justice Minister Chem Snguon, whom he blames for the move against him.

"I know what I have done...my conscience and honesty are there. You ask the

people on the streets. Do they think I stole three kilograms of heroin? ...they [the

prosecution] have nothing on me."

But Hockry is a worried man - entangled in a web of intrigue involving drugs, corrupt

police and politics, the confidence which one would expect to accompany his position

of power seems to have seeped away.

In the latest installment in a Byzantine sequence of events, Hockry's political future

remains uncertain following a request to strip the minister of his parliamentary

immunity.

The request - following an Interior Ministry investigation and made in a letter from

Phnom Penh Municipal Prosecutor Kann Chhoeun to the permanent standing committee

of the National Assembly September 6 - came as the result of allegations that 3kg

of heroin had disappeared while locked in a safe in Hockry's office.

The co-Minister claims the "disappearance" was the result of an administrative

error - a mistake made while weighing the drugs - and says the charges against him

are politically motivated. Some Funcinpec colleagues and independent observers agree.

Others are not so sure.

Hockry's predicament began with an eight kilogram seizure of heroin by municipal

anti-drug police in February - a bust which kicked off a chain of bizarre events

and led to the exposure of organized drug dealing within the Interior Ministry.

In an interview mid-August with the Post , municipal anti-narcotics chief Heng Po

said eight kilograms of heroin was seized from three suspects near the Russian market

late in February.

However, according to Po, the three suspects - a Ministry of Interior anti-narcotics

policewoman, a RCAF soldier and an intervention policeman - were released when Interior

Ministry police intervened and arrested his own men.

The two police officers were later re-arrested and during interrogation one claimed

they were "allowed" to sell drugs for a ten percent commission.

The seized heroin eventually found its way to the office of Deputy Chief of National

Police King Samnang where it weighed in at only five kgs - apparently three kg less

than it should.

From there it was transferred to You Hockry's office where it was weighed again -

at six kgs this time - sealed and locked in the Minister's safe.

However, by the time the package was turned over as evidence to the municipal court

August 6, it weighed only 2.76 kg.

You Hockry later explained the difference as being the result of an error resulting

from the use of an imperial scale and that the original figure of six kilograms should

have been recorded as six imperial pounds.

But, according to several sources, the mistake in weighing the seized heroin gave

Hockry's enemies the opportunity they had been waiting for.

"The CPP blame You Hockry for creating a rift between the two Prime Ministers.

They say he is responsible for giving Ranariddh misinformation about [district level]

power sharing which led the First PM to attack Hun Sen and the CPP at the Funcinpec

conference [in March]," said one.

Party sources confirm that Hockry had negotiated a list of Funcinpec appointments

with CPP officials earlier this year but failed to inform Ranariddh of the agreement.

Unaware of the deal, the First Prime Minister lashed out at the CPP for failing to

share power and threatened to withdraw from the coalition.

Often repeated rumors in Phnom Penh assert the delay in handing the list to Ranariddh

was due to attempts by the Minister and a family member to "sell" the appointments.

However, Hockry strongly denies the allegation and, in a report sent to Ranariddh,

blames the incompetence of ministry staff for the delay.

Funcinpec MP Ahmad Yayha said he believed there was little substantial evidence to

support allegations that Hockry had "stolen" the heroin in his custody.

"[But] this is politics - you open the door to your house and the people will

come in. They [CPP] have been waiting to settle the score and the 'missing' heroin

gave them the opportunity," he said.

Speculation over the political motivation to remove Hockry from his post is further

confused by suggestions from within Funcinpec that the party "would be happy

to see him go."

One source close to Ranariddh confirmed that many party members were unhappy with

the way Hockry was handling the job.

"People within the party are not happy with Hockry's performance as Interior

Minister - [his work on] power sharing has resulted in nothing, his work in fighting

prostitution and crime has resulted in nothing," the source said.

However, he did not believe Ranariddh would support the move to strip the minister

of his parliamentary immunity.

"Sure, he is not a pure man, but who is in Cambodian politics?"the source

said of Hockry.

An Interior Ministry source said Hockry's future as Interior Minister has been the

subject of discussion for several months. The source said that Second Prime Minister

Hun Sen was recently approached by Funcinpec General Nhek Bun Chhay and asked for

an "opinion" on the replacement of Hockry.

Hun Sen reportedly replied that as the post belonged to Funcinpec, the question of

replacing Hockry was a Funcinpec decision.

The source also claimed that Siem Reap's Funcinpec Governor Toan Chay had been approached

about taking on the job of co-Interior Minister but had declined.

Among the suggested front runners to replace Hockry is Khann Savoeun, currently commander

of Military Region Four and a former Secretary of State at the Ministry.

Last week the permanent standing committee briefly considered the issue of lifting

Hockry's immunity, but decided not to act until it had more information. In particular,

according to Committee Chairman Loy Sim Chheang, the committee was waiting for the

opinion of the two Prime Ministers.

At press time, Chheang said the committee was yet to receive such an opinion and,

as he and other members were going overseas, it was unlikely that the committee would

take any action.

"The decision will likely be delayed until the next session of the National

Assembly which was due to convene on October 19," he said.

It seems You Hockry will have to sweat it out for some time yet.

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