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

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors