Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov’t rebukes HRW director

Gov’t rebukes HRW director

People prepare to place a wreath at Chea Sim’s funeral in Phnom Penh.
People prepare to place a wreath at Chea Sim’s funeral in Phnom Penh. A new CPP president will be elected later this week. Heng Chivoan

Gov’t rebukes HRW director

As the ruling party prepares this week to elect a president and deputy president following Chea Sim’s death on June 8, the Ministry of Interior has lashed out at an international rights group that last week linked Sim to Khmer Rouge abuses.

Though he was lauded by some as a national hero, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Sim of committing “serious international crimes” during his years as a Khmer Rouge official.

HRW said Sim was never charged despite his complicity in the arrest, torture and execution of political opponents, ethnic minorities and members of the Kingdom’s pre-revolutionary upper-class during his tenure as secretary in Ponhea Krek district in Democratic Kampuchea’s Eastern Zone.

“Chea Sim’s passing is a reminder that virtually all former Khmer Rouge officials have gone unpunished for the millions of deaths and incredible suffering of ordinary Cambodians during Khmer Rouge rule,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s executive director of its Asia division.

The Ministry of Interior on Saturday wrote to Adams in response to his article published the week prior and titled “Cambodia: Chea Sim Death Shows Failings of the Khmer Rouge Court”, accusing HRW of skewing the facts about Sim’s past.

“The article was premeditated with the intent to distort the facts and displayed a personal anger towards the top leadership of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” the letter read. “[Sim] is a well regarded patriot who helped rebuild, restore, develop and maintain peace and security of the nation with all his sincerity.”

The letter also stressed that Sim was merely a district official during the Khmer Rouge and not a senior leader. It also said that Sim, as well as his family, were along with millions of other Cambodian citizens victims of the murderous regime, and went on to suggest that HRW might be better off without Adams.

“Human Rights Watch knows better about the human rights situation in Cambodia. The organisation may have a better reputation without your representation as your action has deviated far from moral principles and brought shame to Human Rights Watch.”

Meanwhile, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday confirmed that 545 members of the CPP’s Central Committee will convene on Saturday to select a new leader. He declined, however, to name candidates the party was considering.

“Before the Central Committee congress, the party’s standing committee would [usually] meet to prepare the list of candidates,” he said. “So far, that meeting has yet to take place because of the funeral.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced in April that he would take over the party presidency in the event that Sim passed away.

Sim, who was party president since 1991, died on June 8 at his home, aged 82. Once called Cambodia’s “strongman”, he was considered by many to be the second-most-powerful figure in the Kingdom following the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.

In a previous version of this story, the lead paragraph mistakenly attributed the government response to Human Rights Watch to the Ministry of Information. It was, in fact, the Ministry of Interior. The Post regrets any confusion that error may have caused.

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the