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Police Chief's US Visit Undercuts Rights Work, Local Groups Say

Local rights groups and the opposition appealed to authorities Tuesday to stop the US visit of National Police Chief Gen. Hok Lundy, saying the trip harms their efforts to strengthen human rights in the country.

The general, a powerful supporter of Prime Minister Hun Sen, has been implicated in serious crimes against Cambodians, and his visit, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, undercuts the work of human rights organizations, the groups said.

People implicated in crimes should not be invited to the US, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said.

"We know that in the US, many people are demanding the reconsideration" of Hok Lundy's visit, he said, "because the decision has no support from many establishments in the US itself."

Hok Lundy was denied a US visa by the State Department in 2006 on what the general called confusing allegations he was involved in human trafficking. In 2004, Hok Lundy's approval was widely suspected in the release of a group of brothel owners and sex traffickers.

Hok Lundy is "up to his neck" in criminal activity, Brad Adams, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told VOA Wednesday. "It's not even a subject of debate."

"Our people, our country, and countries in general, look up to the US," Center for Social Development Director Seng Theary said Thursday. "The US is inviting Hok Lundy for a visit, meaning it gives big consideration and an honor to Hok Lundy."

This is turn, she said, was not beneficial to the Cambodian public.

The appeal follows a statement Tuesday by Human Rights Watch that pointed out Hok Lundy's suspected involvement in the 1997 grenade attack, extrajudicial killings and drug and human trafficking.

"Two US Drug Enforcement Agency (Administration) officials and a former US ambassador to Cambodia have confirmed to Human Rights Watch that the US government is aware of Lundy's involvement in drug trafficking," the rights group said.

A press officer at the US Drug Enforcement Administration was not immediately able to comment Thursday.

"In February 2006, the State Department's human trafficking office specifically cited Lundy's alleged involvement in human trafficking as grounds for denying him a visa," the group said. "That decision was linked to a brothel raid in December 2004, following which Lundy reportedly ordered the release within hours of several traffickers before an investigation could be conducted."

A State Department official said Thursday Cambodia had made "significant efforts" to combat trafficking, but that "strong diffrences of opinion" remained between the two countries over the matter.

The State Department planned to use the occasion of Hok Lundy's visit to deliver a "tough, direct message" to the police chief on its views, the official said. The State Department upgraded Cambodia from the worst trafficking category, "Tier 3," to Tier 2 in 2006.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak dismissed the accusations against the police commissioner, saying no evidence points to Hok Lundy.