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Banh has back of commander

Defence Minister Tea Banh speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh in 2012.
Defence Minister Tea Banh speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh in 2012.

Banh has back of commander

An anonymous complaint against a deputy regional military commander filed to the Anti-Corruption Unit, which included allegations of skimming from soldiers’ salaries, has been dismissed by Defence Minister Tea Banh as untrue following a Ministry of Defence investigation.

The ACU on Wednesday posted a synopsis of the undated complaint on their Facebook page, which levels a number of accusations against Kandal deputy regional military commander Chhea Sidara, including reducing soldiers salaries by 28,000 riel ($7), creating more than 100 ghost workers in order to bring more money into the division, not paying for electricity on his farm and making 35 staff members complete work on his own property.

In response, a letter from Banh dated October 16, 2015, which was also posted on the ACU’s Facebook page on Wednesday, rejected the accusations.

Banh’s letter dismissed eight of the allegations out of hand, though it conceded that “salary cutting goes against the principles set forward by the higher authorities”. But even that, it said, had been done “with the consent of his inferiors”.

Banh said the Defence Ministry’s investigation concluded that soldiers had agreed among themselves to donate 10,000 riel to the families of lost soldiers.

The letter does not account for the discrepancy between that figure and the 28,000 riel number cited by troops.

Banh goes on to say that Sidara had only a driver and two guards working directly for him; had not inflated the amount of soldiers registered; and had stopped using state-funded electricity on his property in November 2013 after receiving a desist letter from the ACU.

Contacted yesterday, commander Sidara defended himself against the accusations.

“Not all my inferiors love me,” he said of the complaint.

ACU chief Om Yentieng yesterday refused to say whether or not his body would still carry out an independent investigation as “it could compromise the ACU’s work”.

However, San Chey, coordinator of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, said he thought that the ACU should follow up with its own probe as it “would encourage more people to come forward”.

“In the past, the ACU was slow to take action or simply dismissed complaints, so it discouraged people,” he said.

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