Systematic extrajudicial killings were directed and executed for decades by death squads established under Prime Minister Hun Sen's regime and run by men who are now some of the highest-ranking members of government, a report released by Human Rights Watch today alleges.
The report, titled Tell Them That I Want To Kill Them, unearths hundreds of cases of political killings investigated by the United Nations, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, rights groups and the media - linked to individuals including chief of the criminal department at the Ministry of Interior Mok Chito and Central Security Directorate chief Sok Phal.
From the “A–Teams” or death squads established in the 1980's to the grenade attacks on opposition parties in the 1990's, the bloody 1997 coup d'etat to the killing of Chut Wutty this year, it outlines how alleged murderers have been promoted in the Cambodian People's Party rather than prosecuted.
The government has said the report is simply a baseless, politically timed stunt intended to try and derail the ASEAN summit that starts Thursday.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the farcical explanation for the death of fierce anti-logging activist Chut Wutty – an official investigation revealed he was shot by a military police officer who was then, accidentally, killed by his own gun by a man trying to disarm him – showed murders were rewarded by the CPP.
“The fact that, for instance, Mok Chito is tapped to go down to lead the investigation to come up with a story to try to explain away the Chut Wutty murder shows that these people are still the go-to people for the CPP,” he said.
“Somebody like Mok Chito, who is known to have a long association with the most senior people in the government and is known to have a reputation as someone who has repeatedly got their hands dirty for the CPP as an enforcer type, this is the type of person that...when this person says what the story is, everybody salutes.”
Wutty was killed on April 26 while investigating illegal logging in the Cardamom Mountains.
The report quotes a senior operative under the State of Cambodia, the regime that ruled Cambodia immediately after the Khmer Rouge, detailing how a secret death squad called A-92 was directed by Sok Phal and Mok Chito.
“When Mok Chito [senior police officer] or my unit discovered something or a target, we first had to make a report to our superiors. They take the decision to kill. Mok Chito was involved in lots of killings,” the anonymous operative is quoted as saying.
Mok Chito and Sok Phal could not be reached for comment today.
But Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said on the sidelines of a meeting this morning that Human Rights Watch was just trying to make noise ahead of ASEAN, and called it standard practice for rights groups and protestors during international meets.
“First of all, he must give the proof to say that this man is responsible for all these things. I think for Human Rights Watch, it is just a personal vendetta between them and the present prime minister,” he said.
Human Rights Watch also quoted Hing Bun Heang, former deputy head of the notorious Brigade 70, telling the Post after the 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally that he wanted to kill journalists who alleged Hun Sen's bodyguards were involved in the attack.
“Tell them that I want to kill them... publish it, say that I, chief of the bodyguards, have said this. I want to kill... I am so angry,” Bun Heang is quoted as saying.
To contact the reporter on this story: David Boyle at [email protected]