FOREIGN Minister Hor Namhong summoned a senior American embassy official last week in protest over a United States diplomatic cable released by the anti-secrecy organisation WikiLeaks that accused the minister of participating in Khmer Rouge atrocities.
In a cable from the US embassy in Phnom Penh dated June 2002 that was one of hundreds of such dispatches made public by WikiLeaks last week, Alexander Arvizu, the embassy’s former deputy head of mission, cited an “undated, unattributed report on file” at the embassy that made allegations about Hor Namhong’s role at Boeung Trabek prison under the Khmer Rouge.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had summoned Jeff Daigle, the US deputy head of mission and charge d’ affaires, to protest against the allegations in the cable, which the ministry said was “full of unacceptable maligned indictment”.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia calls for comments from the Embassy of the United States of America in Phnom Penh on this highly defamatory report,” the statement read.
The report in question says Hor Namhong survived the Khmer Rouge because he was a “schoolmate” of former KR foreign minister Ieng Sary.
“He became head of the Beng Trabek [sic] camp and he and his wife collaborated in the killing of many prisoners,” the US cable cites the report as saying.
A 2008 embassy cable, however, states that there is “little or no evidence” for such accusations, which have been raised repeatedly against Hor Namhong by opposition leader Sam Rainsy. That cable recounts efforts by then-US ambassador Joseph Mussomeli to mediate between Sam Rainsy and Hor Namhong after the former was threatened with legal action in relation to the allegations.
In April of this year, the self-exiled Sam Rainsy was convicted in absentia of defamation and inciting discrimination against Hor Namhong and sentenced to two years in jail by a Cambodian court for public comments he made in 2008 regarding the foreign minister’s role at Boeung Trabek.
However, a 2008 decision against Sam Rainsy by a French court, which ordered him to pay a symbolic, one-euro penalty for similar comments made in his autobiography, was overturned by the French Supreme Court in April.
US embassy spokesman Mark Wenig said in an email yesterday that Daigle had indeed met with Cambodian officials on Thursday, and that he had “related to the Foreign Minister that the US relationship with Cambodia is strong and based on common interests and shared goals”.
“We are confident that the partnerships the Obama administration has worked so hard to build in Cambodia will withstand this challenge,” Wenig said.