HUMAN rights workers came under fire from Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, just days
before the United Nations Center for Human Rights (UNCHR) submitted a comprehensive
report to the government detailing rights abuses in the wake of the July 5-6 fighting.
Hun Sen charged that human rights organizations - and the UNCHR in particular - had
made allegations of violations by government forces, including summary executions
and torture, without proof.
"They cannot just accuse us without evidence," Hun Sen said Aug 18. He
also accused UNCHR workers of frightening people into fleeing the country, and said
he would request the UN to change some of their staff in Phnom Penh.
UNCHR officials said they were "surprised" by the Second Prime Minister's
outburst as they had been in regular liaison with one of Hun Sen's advisors during
their investigations of abuses.
They submitted a report to the government Aug 25 detailing the results of their investigations.
"This kind of report we have submitted is nothing new. For the most part government
officials have been appreciative of our bringing to their attention of abuses we've
verified," said David Hawk, UNCHR officer-in-charge.
Hawk said he had requested a meeting with Hun Sen "to discuss his concerns in
detail", and noted that UNCHR have held regular meetings with Om Yien Tieng,
a senior Hun Sen aide.
"He would have known where we were going and what we wanted to do. We were doing
the investigation with the cooperation of the government authorities," said
The UNCHR report details 41 cases of extra-judicial killings of senior Funcinpec
military leaders and soldiers loyal to them and over 50 instances of "cremations
of individuals in suspicious circumstances", according to a UNCHR official.
Among those alleged killed while in government custody are Interior Secretary of
State Ho Sok, Defense Ministry intelligence officials Chao Sambath and Lak Ki, Defense
Undersecretary of State Kroch Yoeum, and deputy chief of staff of military Region
5, Thlang Sovannarith.
Ly Seng Hong, Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) deputy chief of general staff,
and Maen Bun Thon, a senior Defense Ministry official, are listed as missing and
The report also contains gruesome photographs of executed Funcinpec soldiers, some
of whom investigators unearthed from shallow graves.
UNCHR investigators uncovered evidence of torture of Funcinpec soldiers detained
after the fighting. At the elite army Division 911 base in Kambol, Kampong Speu province,
30 prisoners were held in a windowless two-by-six meter cell for 10 days. The detainees
were forced to drink sewage water and were beaten until they confessed to being specially
recruited to fight Hun Sen.
Human rights officials attribute many of the killings to a situation of "institutional
impunity" which arose after the fighting, and described the murders as "political".
"They were killed because they belong to the opposition," said one rights
Hun Sen's aides said that the government would continue to cooperate with the UNCHR,
but confirmed that the CPP leader remained firm on the need for personnel changes
at the UN Center.
"We don't want some people here who have made accusations without evidence..."
said Prak Sokhon, a senior advisor to Hun Sen.
Human rights officials said they were ready to answer charges that they had caused
people to flee the country and said that their evidence of abuses was "very
Nevertheless, some officials are now concerned that the Prime Minister's remarks
could impact on the safety of human rights investigators, particularly local staff.
"We've pointed out that the comments of Hun Sen create a context for retaliation
to happen," said one human rights worker.
Human Rights Watch/Asia sprang to the UNCHR's defense in a report which alleged "a
protracted campaign of intimidation by Hun Sen's forces".
The report called on the government to "end all harassment and threats"
against the UNCHR field office and provide explicit guarantees that the office could
"continue to operate without restriction."
"The burden should be on Hun Sen to explain the exact circumstances under which
leading Funcinpec figures and their bodyguards were killed and arrest those responsible
for murder," said Human Rights Watch/Asia executive director Sidney Jones.
The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for human rights in Cambodia, Thomas
Hammarberg, is due to arrive in the capital Aug 31. During the visit, he is scheduled
to discuss the report with Hun Sen and government leaders.
But human rights officials acknowledged that the government had a poor track record
in bringing to justice those responsible for abuses.
"There's been a long-term problem with investigations not leading to the identification
of suspects and the prosecution of perpetrators," said UNCHR's David Hawk, citing
as examples the March 30 grenade attack, the execution of Ho Sok and "political
violence" against Cambodian journalists which has claimed the lives of four
"These failures in the past have created a climate of impunity," said Hawk.