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South Korean envoy’s migrant threats ‘inappropriate’

Suth Dina, the Cambodian ambassador to South Korea, talks at an event last year in South Korea. Facebook
Suth Dina, the Cambodian ambassador to South Korea, talks at an event last year in South Korea. Facebook

South Korean envoy’s migrant threats ‘inappropriate’

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has distanced itself from claims by Cambodia’s ambassador to the country, Suth Dina, that South Korean security forces are aiding him in tracking migrant workers who have protested Prime Minister Hun Sen’s rule.

Since he was posted to Seoul in April, 2014, Ambassador Suth Dina has made many public threats via his Facebook page directed at thousands of Cambodian migrants in South Korea. The posts are made all the more intimidating by Dina’s claims that he is working with South Korean authorities.

Last Thursday, he posted an image of himself sitting in an office with an unnamed man he said was part of a South Korean “special intelligence” unit working with the embassy to break up a network of illegal migrants he said were instigating anti-government protests.

This week, Dina declined to respond to multiple requests asking him to clarify what South Korean agency he is being aided by, but South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was unaware of any request to investigate illegal migrants.

“The Foreign Ministry has not received any request from the Embassy of Cambodia in Seoul with respect to the migrant workers’ issue,” the ministry said.

Days after announcing his collaboration with South Korean “special intelligence”, Dina posted a video of himself and three men begging forgiveness for their part in a protest in which they set alight a picture of Prime Minister Hun Sen and posted it on Facebook two years ago.

The burning took place amid anti-CPP demonstrations that drew large crowds in South Korea in January, 2014, sparked by the shooting of five people at the scene of a minimum wage protest in Phnom Penh.

The men said they had handed themselves into the embassy in Seoul fearing arrests by the South Korean security forces.

Chum Sounry, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday he was aware of the Facebook posts, but “did not have the information” needed to comment on them.

In November, in the lead-up to a visit to Seoul from CNRP leaders, Dina again took to Facebook, threatening those who attended the rally with arrest and deportation.

Yi Sinorn, the president of a CNRP-aligned youth group in South Korea, said yesterday that Dina was using unfounded fear tactics to oppress freedom of expression in the country.

“You know if the Korean authority investigates someone they keep it quiet. The ambassador should not make it public on Facebook like this,” he said.

Once a proud anti-government activist himself, Dina led the anti-communist Khmer Front Party, which was formed in 2003, and later became spokesman of the Norodom Ranariddh Party in 2006. He defected to the ruling party in 2009.

Ou Virak, a political analyst and founder of the Future Forum think tank, said yesterday that Dina was trying to suppress anti-government sentiment in South Korea as he would be viewed as “weak” by the CPP leadership in Phnom Penh otherwise.

But an ambassador should not be using foreign security forces to make public threats to Cambodian migrants overseas, he added.

“It is definitely not appropriate if it is not true, and even if it is [true], there is no reason to post it.”

Additional reporting by Morn Vanntey

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