Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government hits back at HRW Sokha accusations



Government hits back at HRW Sokha accusations

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia Football Federation president Sao Sokha (right) and national team coach Keisuke Honda shake hands at a press conference in Phnom Penh on August 12.

Government hits back at HRW Sokha accusations

The government on Friday responded to comments made by Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticising Cambodia national football team coach Keisuke Honda’s links to “world-class human rights abuser” Sao Sokha.

Honda, who still plays professional football in Australia, accepted the role of Cambodia national team coach in August, appearing at a press conference with Cambodia Football Federation president Sao Sokha.

The statement presented by government spokesman Phay Siphan said the Cambodian government rejected the accusations levelled against Sao Sokha.

“HRW untruly attacks and insults the efforts of Sao Sokha who voluntarily spends his own money and valuable time to organise and run the federation. The statement is a subversive campaign against the Khmer youth movements in the sports sector,” the statement read.

The government’s response comes following a letter sent by HRW to high-profile Japanese footballer Honda on December 3, criticising his decision to become the new Cambodia head coach, as well as his close relationship with Sokha.

HRW Asia Division executive director Brad Adams said in a press conference discussing the letter on December 16: “Seeing a photo of Keisuke Honda with such a notorious human rights abuser as Sokha in August at a news conference was shocking.

“We have expressed concern about the credibility a world-famous football star may give to a world-class human rights abuser and the message that sends to Cambodia’s long-suffering people.”

Honda is a leading star in Japanese football and earned 98 caps for Japan’s national team between 2008 and 2018. He has played for professional teams in the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, and Australia.

In response to HRW’s accusations, the government questioned the organisation’s credibility.

“The statement of the HRW Asia division executive director – a private organisation that regards itself as the human rights police in Asia – clearly shows its hostile character."

“The statement is a terrible and shameful act, and it is unacceptable for the Cambodian people,” the government statement read.

In addition to his involvement in Cambodian football, Sao Sokha is currently Royal Cambodian Armed Forces

deputy supreme commander, Royal Khmer Gendarmerie commander, and a close associate of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

He told The Post on Sunday that he does not wish to respond to the accusations.

“Please ask Brad Adams because he is the one talking. I do not know anything, he has not spoken with me, but he has mentioned my name. I do not have an obligation to explain anything because I am not the one who started talking,” he said.

Sokha compared Adams’ comments to that of a spectator who criticises the players.

“It is like this – I am a footballer, but the one talking about me is not a footballer. He watches the match and criticises, but he has no experience in the game."

“I do not respond and I do not want to be famous because I already am famous. I do not need to ask someone to speak for me to become popular because I have my own popularity, so I say nothing,” Sokha said.

Cambodia football spokesman Sok Kunthea said HRW should not link sports with politics.

“If HRW has a problem with Sao Sokha, the organisation should send the letter to Fifa to solve the case. We should not link sports with politics because these two should be separate,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American

  • Lost in translation: ‘Starvation’ in capital’s designated red zones

    “DACH bay” is a Khmer slang meaning a “loss of income”, that could also be literally translated to «deprived of rice”, which alludes to starvation. However, civil society organisation (CSO) officials have independently confirmed the government’s prior assertions that there are no cases of