Government officials have reacted strongly to a Human Right Watch (HRW) report that profiles 12 Cambodian generals – the “dirty dozen” – claiming they are perpetrators of human rights abuses.
HRW on Thursday released a more than 200-page report titled Cambodia’s Dirty Dozen: A long history of Rights Abuses by Hun Sen’s Generals.
Shortly after the report’s release, the Ministry of Defence issued a press release strongly refuting it. It labelled the report an “arbitrary exaggeration” with the intention to slander without grounds or reasons 12 high-ranking officials within the armed forces.
The report had detailed the background of the 12 generals, eight of whom work within the National Defence Ministry and four at the Interior Ministry.
The generals include Pol Saroeun, commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF); Kun Kim, deputy commander of RCAF and chief of the RCAF Mixed General Staff; and Sao Sokha, deputy supreme commander of RCAF and commander of the Royal Khmer Gendarmerie (GRK).
Also included were Neth Savoeun, supreme commissioner of the Cambodian National Police; Chea Man, deputy commander of the Army and commander of Military Region 4; Bun Seng, deputy commander of the Army and commander of Military Region 5; and Choeun Sovantha, deputy commander of the Army and commander of Military Region 2.
Others in the list were Chap Pheakdey, deputy chief of the RCAF Joint General Staff and commander of Special Forces Paratrooper Brigade 911; Rat Sreang, deputy commander of the countrywide GRK and commander of the Phnom Penh Gendarmerie; and Sok Phal, deputy supreme commissioner of the National Police and supreme director for immigration.
And finally, Mok Chito, deputy supreme commissioner of the National Police and secretary-general of the National Anti-Drugs Authority (NADA); and Chuon Sovan, deputy supreme commissioner of the National Police and commissioner of the Phnom Penh municipal police were also named.
The report claimed the generals were the backbone of an abusive and authoritarian police regime.
“Each had demonstrated a willingness to commit rights abuses on behalf of Hun Sen. Instead of serving the public, these officials have acted to protect the rule of Hun Sen, who has been in power for more than 33 years,” the report claimed.
HRW’s Asia director, Brad Adams, said Prime Minister Hun Sen had created a core of security force officers who “have ruthlessly and violently carried out his orders”.
“The importance of Cambodia’s generals has become even more apparent ahead of July’s election, as they engage in crackdowns against journalists, political opponents and anti-government protesters – and openly campaign for Hun Sen,” Adams said.
The report claimed the officials have a legal responsibility to represent the state instead of a political party and should carry out their duties impartially and neutrally.
“But on the contrary, these generals had acted to serve the ruling party as each of them was a member of the CPP central committee."
“No dictator reaches or stays at the top without the support of the other ruthless people,” Adam’s said, adding: “Like their boss, they need to be called out and held accountable for their many crimes.”
In response, the Ministry of Defence said: “The invention of such a crazy report from this group is in violation again and again of the sovereignty, independence and rule of law of the Kingdom of Cambodia to serve the evil politics of some foreigners and treasonous politicians who attempted to start a colour revolution, destroying the peace and happiness of the people.
“Even though the colour revolution failed and its leader was arrested, some within this group have not thrown away the idea of destroying the nation.
“The Ministry of Defence outright dismisses the accusations contained in the report, and condemn the poisonous trick of the so-called Human Rights Watch.”
Chito said he didn’t care about the report. “I don’t know what they accused me of. Brad Adams is confused and says whatever he wants.
“But the fact is that he has no basis for his accusations, and we don’t care about it because it does not come from the US government but an individual.
“He accuses anyone he hates, like me. I do not know anything, but he said I violated human rights. I wonder when I did that. If they were thieves, robbers or drug dealers, we arrested them. I have never violated human rights,” Chito said.
Council of Ministry spokesperson Phay Siphan on Thursday also said the HRW had a political agenda and is biased and subjective.
“[Adams] spoke at a number of forums urging experts, Cambodian-Americans, lawmakers in the US and its allies to revolt against the elected Prime Minister Hun Sen and the royal government of Cambodia,” Siphan said.