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.


  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there

  • Cambodia lauded for fight against Covid-19

    Cambodia has drawn global accolades for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a new report finding that the Kingdom has controlled the pandemic better than any other country in Asia. Dr Takeshi Kasai, director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Western Pacific region,