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.