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Kem Sokha defended by donor group

A DONOR to the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights has come out in defence of Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha, who has been accused of embezzling funds the donor gave the NGO.

Kem Sokha appeared at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday for questioning in connection with a 2006 complaint accusing him of breach of trust and the use of false documents. The complaint, filed by 16 former staff members, says he embezzled thousands of dollars in funds.

After Thursday’s questioning session, Kem Sokha told reporters that the International Republican Institute, which is funded by the United States government and linked to the US Republican Party, had conducted an investigation and concluded that CCHR had spent the funds properly, though IRI could not be reached for confirmation.

In a statement issued over the weekend, however, the group said its funds had been “well-administered” by Kem Sokha.

“As an organisation supported by US taxpayer funds CCHR was held to the highest standards of financial management and accounting practices, and over the course of IRI’s affiliation with CCHR, and its leader Kem Sokha, the institute was satisfied that grant funds were well administered and that the work being carried out was critical to strengthening democracy in Cambodia,” the statement said.

It noted that the IRI had supported CCHR from 2002 to 2007, when it was under the helm of Kem Sokha, and highlighted efforts including hosting public forums, supporting advocacy campaigns and investigating rights abuses.

Chhim Phalvorn – one of two plaintiffs who re-filed the complaint against Kem Sokha in August – yesterday dismissed IRI’s statement, and called on Kem Sokha and IRI to produce the relevant documents in court.

“IRI, normally, they must defend their honour because IRI in the past did not make the investigation they have audited,” he said. “If IRI supports Mr Kem Sokha, IRI has to take the documents of the budget payments to the court.”



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