Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGO defends secretary-general’s role in dispute

NGO defends secretary-general’s role in dispute

Suon Bunsak (third left), Sim Sitha (second left), Sao Seny (first left) and Chan Vichet (first right), attend a compensation meeting with villagers on April 10 in Kampong Speu province. Photo supplied
Suon Bunsak (third left), Sim Sitha (second left), Sao Seny (first left) and Chan Vichet (first right), attend a compensation meeting with villagers on April 10 in Kampong Speu province. Photo supplied

NGO defends secretary-general’s role in dispute

The steering committee of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee on Friday issued a response to concerns about its secretary-general Suon Bunsak’s involvement in a widely decried compensation process between Phnom Penh Sugar and evicted villagers in Kampong Speu province.

The statement maintains that Bunsak’s presence at a May 16 meeting where more than 150 families accepted compensation was approved by the steering committee, and that he was “strictly advised to maintain neutrality towards both parties of the land conflict”.

It also denies Bunsak gave the deal his “stamp of approval” on the grounds that CHRAC “has no authority or power to provide any approval to any compensation deal” and his role was strictly to monitor.

The statement does not refer to an April meeting that Bunsak initially denied attending, but was photographed at sitting on a dais with a Phnom Penh Sugar representative. Nor does it respond to concerns raised by multiple villagers, community representatives and NGO staffers over a lack of transparency in Bunsak’s involvement.

Phnom Penh Sugar’s produce was labelled “blood sugar” in 2012 over allegations of child labour and forced evictions.

Ali al-Nasani, country director of the Heinrich Boll Foundation, which is a CHRAC donor, wrote in an email yesterday that while he welcomed the statement there needed to be greater transparency from CHRAC about Bunsak’s involvement in the dispute.

Meanwhile, former CHRAC consultant Billy Tai yesterday said the statement raised wider questions about the integrity of the steering committee itself.

“If Bunsak is acting under the steering committee’s instructions it would be extraordinary for all five members, all prominent human rights NGOs, to be working with [Phnom Penh Sugar Company owner] Ly Yong Phat given his notorious reputation,” Tai said, adding that he felt Bunsak’s past statements to the media were “fairly unambiguous about his support for the deal, which raises questions of neutrality”.

Yesterday Latt Ky, head of land rights at NGO Adhoc, denied Bunsak’s prior claim that he had approved Bunsak’s involvement in the Kampong Speu dispute.

“It’s not true,” Ky said.

Bunsak could not be reached for comment yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Mr Pancake or M Crepe? Tasty by any title

    Crowds of people gather around a lone man with a mobile food cart every day at around 2pm in front of the Institut Francais du Cambodge to order what many say are the best crepes in Phnom Penh. To some – even to the man making

  • Phnom Penh condo market loses steam

    Just four new condominiums were launched for sale last year in the capital, down from 17 in 2020, according to research by CBRE Cambodia. The four developments comprised “more than 1,000” units, while the 17 in 2020 consisted of 10,866, the real estate firm reported. CBRE Cambodia categorises condos as “high-range”, “

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused