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Graft agency eyes opposition border trips

CNRP lawmaker Real Camerin is carried away from the border in Svay Rieng province earlier this year after he was allegedly hit in the head. The ACU has summoned the lawmaker for questioning over funds raised to inspect the Cambodia-Vietnam border.
CNRP lawmaker Real Camerin is carried away from the border in Svay Rieng province earlier this year after he was allegedly hit in the head. The ACU has summoned the lawmaker for questioning over funds raised to inspect the Cambodia-Vietnam border. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Graft agency eyes opposition border trips

The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has summoned Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Real Camerin to answer allegations he cheated donors out of $55,000 raised to fund a mass rally to inspect alleged Vietnamese territorial encroachment in Svay Rieng province last month.

The order, dated July 31 but publicised yesterday, cites three anonymous complaints detailing sums of $15,000, $20,000 and $20,000 elicited to pay for the border trip on July 19 to Kampong Ro district.

Most of this, the complainants allege, was pocketed by Camerin, who is currently in the US continuing his fundraising drive and did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In the letter, ACU head Om Yentieng calls for Camerin to clarify how the cash was spent, requesting the parliamentarian provide relevant documentation.

The ACU will evaluate the evidence before deciding whether to take action, the statement adds.

Yentieng yesterday refused to reveal the complainants, claiming their lives could be at risk.

“I need to defend the sources,” he said.

Although CNRP president Sam Rainsy has long drummed up populist support by talking tough on Vietnamese encroachment, the party yesterday moved to distance itself from the “inspections”, saying they were Camerin’s personal projects and the money did not go through party coffers.

“He is responsible to the individual donors,” said spokesman Ou Chanrith, after questioning whether the ACU’s jurisdiction covered fundraising.

According to emails seen by the Post, by July 17, US-based network CNRP USA, aligned to the party’s Human Rights Party faction, had raised at least $14,877 for Camerin’s trip, referred to as a “mission to rescue our country”.

Two days later, some 2,000 activists trooped to border marker 203, where less than a month earlier, on June 28, another group led by Camerin brawled with Vietnamese villagers and authorities, leaving more than dozen people injured.

Kong Mas, Camerin’s assistant, said the cash paid for transport, food and medicine, but was unable to provide the total figure raised or how much was spent.

He said organisers rented at least 60 15-seat vehicles at $90 each and more than 40 24-seaters at $140 each, accounting for $11,000.

Since May, CNRP lawmakers Camerin, Um Sam An and Mao Monivan have led “inspections” to four different provinces as part of a campaign to highlight alleged encroachment.

Speaking yesterday, Sam An defended the trips, claiming between $15,000 and $20,000 was raised for the July 19 visit but none was misappropriated.

He alleged the ACU complaint was politically motivated.

“There is much corruption in the government, but the [ACU] does not focus on corrupt [officials] but focuses on Mr Real Camerin,” he said.

However, opposition insiders, while declining to discuss the specifics of Camerin’s case, said the questions raised by the issue were indicative of a wider problem of accountability with fundraising by opposition members and supporters.

“At election time, I say we probably raised over $1 million but I think we lost up to $200,000; it just goes into pockets,” said one source.

“It’s difficult to organise accountability abroad because all of this is volunteer work; the CNRP in Phnom Penh has no control.”

Bun Rong By, spokesman for CNRP North America, a US-based fundraising network aligned with the Sam Rainsy Party, also expressed concerns over accountability.

He said his group refrained from supporting Camerin’s border trips because they were not officially supported by the party’s leadership.

According to another opposition source based in Phnom Penh, overseas financing has dwindled since the July 22 deal that ended the opposition’s almost year-long parliamentary boycott.

Amid the dry spell, he said “opportunistic” individuals had utilised the sensitive border issue to raise personal cash and individual profiles.

“We cannot limit people’s freedom to donate, that’s their right, but this isn’t about rights, this is about discipline and accountability,” he said, adding the CNRP needed better controls.

“There’s just no transparent way to monitor for the party, we just don’t know how much is raised and where it is spent.”

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