Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Audio leaks found troubling

Audio leaks found troubling

Hun Sen’s eldest son, Hun Manith, speaks to recruits at the police academy in August of this year. Photo supplied
Hun Sen’s eldest son, Hun Manith, speaks to recruits at the police academy in August of this year. Photo supplied

Audio leaks found troubling

Observers yesterday slammed the alleged involvement of the prime minister’s second son and intelligence chief Hun Manith in plans to discredit opposition leader Kem Sokha, condemnation which differed starkly from responses by officials, who cast it as a private matter of little consequence.

Manith, a major general, allegedly corresponded with social media star Thy Sovantha about plans to undermine the Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president over an alleged affair, according to leaked phone messages featured in a YouTube clip.

The exchanges, which one ruling party official has suggested appear real, purport to show Manith encouraging a campaign against Sokha by Sovantha, a 21-year-old former opposition activist who fell out with the CNRP and then led protests trying to force the CNRP leader to confess to the infidelity.

By email yesterday, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson said the alleged conversations showed a “shocking abuse of power” that should lead to Manith’s sacking. “This is just about the worst example yet of the Cambodian military blatantly acting as political shock troops for the CPP,” Robertson said.

“The stench of the RCAF’s one-sided political agenda is so strong that any foreign militaries still conducting training or joint exercises need to walk away now. ”Manith, 39, was promoted to the head of the Defence Ministry’s intelligence unit last year.

Reached by email yesterday, Paul Chambers, a lecturer at the Institute of South East Asian Affairs at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, said Manith engaging in political sabotage was a clear abuse of his role.

“National security has been distorted to serve the purposes of personal, family and party security,” Chambers said. Under law regulating military staff, personnel shall be neutral in their functions and work activities, though the law allows troops to express private political opinions.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat on Tuesday said the ministry, together with the Interior Ministry, would investigate the authenticity of the Manith leaks, however he said any findings were not related to politics.

Also contacted on Tuesday, Defence Minister Tea Banh appeared less concerned with the purported exchanges between Manith and Sovantha, asking, “Why do we care about their business?”.

Sovantha – whose personal Facebook account also posted more than 400 screenshots of purported online chats between her and the premier (removed yesterday), which the Post has been unable to verify – remained unreachable for comment yesterday.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan – who on Tuesday said the Manith-Sovantha exchanges appeared real and were likely accessed by some someone who bought Sovantha’s old phone – warned against jumping to conclusions.
He added that anyone who believed their honour had been damaged by the leaks could file a complaint.

Political analyst Ou Virak said the scandal had not shocked anyone. “It just goes to show how dirty politics has been and will continue to be and the level of mistrust among the public will basically be on the rise, if it’s not high enough already.”

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has given the green light for anyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutation or any other variant to convalesce or receive treatment at home or in any other reasonable non-healthcare setting. The new decision supersedes a restriction on home care for

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that