At least 13 names of influential police officers, ranging from the ranks of colonel to general, in the Ministry of Interior and two wives of foreign diplomats were listed as involved in illegal human trafficking in Cambodia, according to a research paper done by an investigating group that described itself in the report as ‘’independent’’ and voluntary.
Among the corrupt activities documented in the report, obtained by VOA, are: bringing foreigners in and out of Cambodia, listing the names of the trafficked persons in the Cambodian delegation list to go abroad, charging visa fees ranging from US$18,000 to US $25,000 per person, ordering passports and providing other services.
The 16-page document was written in English and listed names of unscrupulous officials from the military, the military police, the police, the government and the Senate, and their specific activities. It did not name the researchers/investigators, but mentioned that the group was led by a police general and composed of 20 members from the military, police, diplomats, government officials, businessmen who helped conduct three months of research.
A number of Interior Ministry officials said that they have heard of the information, but have not seen the document, and declined to comment. The document alleged that between 1994 and 1999, an average of 1,300 trafficked persons were allowed to exit through international Pochentong airport every month. The document surfaced in recent weeks after Cambodia was downgraded a month ago by the U.S. State Department to tier three in human trafficking annual report.
In addition to the 13 names, the report included names of a number of top military officers, a number of top government officials, commanders of body guards, top country leaders, top military police officials, totaling more than 20 figures who are influential and well-positioned. The copy of the 16-page document obtained by VOA indicated that there are "okna’’ and big businessmen, both Khmer and foreign, who are involved in the buying of virgin girls to sell them to foreigners at home and abroad. Government officials refused comments saying they have not seen the documents, but General Hok Lundy granted the following interview with me.
VOA interview with National Police Commander Hok Lundy at the Interior Ministry on July 26:
KH: There are reports saying that many police generals in the Ministry of Interior are involved in corruption and human trafficking (in Cambodia). Would you make some comments.
HL: First I like to thank you Khemara and VOA for this interview, allowing me to explain the situation involving the children and women trafficking, and the allegation that police officers are involved in corruption. Yes this allegation is true.
In order to stop the human trafficking in Cambodia, the head of the government and the Co-Ministers of Interior have ordered the Police High Commissioner (me) to adopt all necessary means to try to tackle the problem. We have achieved great results early in the year, but we also have observed that a number of our officers have used their authority to serve their personal interests.
I like to stress that there are a number of officers in the ranks of colonels and lieutenants who have collaborated with a number of sex traffickers in some hotels and nightclubs. We have documents proving that these institutions are engaging in human traffic. During the raids against these places we learned that some of our police officers have demanded bribes from $2,000 to $3,000 from the operators to cover up their illegal activities. Against these officers, we have expelled one colonel and issued stern warnings against other lower-ranking officers.
KH: In the human trafficking involving the registration of the trafficked victims in the Cambodian delegation list to go abroad, and the issue of passports and visas for them, what kind of corruption is taking place and what measures have you taken?
HL: For the passport and visa issue we are keeping a close watch, but we see that it's the rights of the Ambassadors of the country of visit to accept or deny the application. We have also strengthened the immigration and intelligence work to monitor the situation of any officials trying to register the trafficked victims in the Cambodian delegation list to go abroad. We cannot allow our officials to engage in these activities.
KH: Is the allegation that many police generals are involved in corruption and human trafficking intended to create some reforms or does it have other intentions (goals)?
HL: I have heard also of these allegations, but I believe some have come from the opposition party, so some are accurate and some are not. If they are accurate, I will appeal to the Co-Ministers and the PM to firmly discipline these police generals and bring them to justice.
KH: Have you met with any foreign diplomats to discuss the solutions to this problem among a few countries?
HL: I like to say that a number of embassy staff have met with DPM Sar Kheng and Co-Minister Sirivudh and myself to exchanges ideas. We come up with proposals to deal with trafficking of women and children, in the efforts to identify the officials who are involved in the trafficking and bring them to court.
KH: Are there any allegations that could be classified as untrue?
HL: Yes, there are a few allegations that are true as I said before, as in the case of a number of police officers collaborating with the traffickers for sex trade involving children and women and labor trade. As I told you early we have disciplined a police colonel for collaborating with the trafficker in sex trade. As for the human trafficking to take the victims abroad, we have the information, and we are trying to find the culprits behind the operations and bring them to justice.
KH: There are documents by a research/investigative group accusing corruption among many officials in the Ministry of Interior by names. Have you received a copy of the documents or do you any information about the allegations?
HL: I have heard of the information. As for the degree of involvement of these officers, I cannot make any assumption. As I said before, the opposition party could have brought this up as criticism against the government officials. Opposition members usually call black what they see white.
KH: Thank you, General High Commissioner.
HL: Thank you very much Khemara who represents VOA for allowing me to express my opinion showing the national and international views regarding the governemnt's position, through the Ministry of Interior and myself, on the assessment of the efforts to stop the corruption in the women and children trafficking in Cambodia.