Prime Minister Hun Sen lost a strong ally within the
Interior Ministry when the plane carrying late police chief Hok Lundy crashed
Nov. 9, but officials say the prime minister's power will not be affected by a
Officials said last week that the loss of Hok Lundy, who led
the national police since 1994, would be great to the government, but they were
convinced national stability would not be affected.
"Nothing will change, stability will remain," said Em
Sam An, secretary of state for the Interior Ministry, as he greeted a
delegation of Vietnamese officials during funeral ceremonies for Hok Lundy last
week. "We are sorry to lose the man. But our forces are in place and in good
order. No problems will arrive. The situation in our country is getting
Hok Lundy was a powerful member of the Cambodian People's
Party, appointed by Hun Sen "as part of an internal power play in the CPP" to
take control of the police from CPP stalwarts Chea Sim, who is president of the
Senate, and Sar Kheng, who is Minister of the Interior, said Brad Adams, Asia
director for Human Rights Watch.
Hok Lundy's appointment came at a time of instability,
following a failed coup attempt against Hun Sen and then co-prime minister
Norodom Ranariddh, in 1994. His death, in a helicopter crash in Svay Rieng
province, was a loss of a powerful right hand, but was not destabilizing, Adams
"After Hun Sen, he was probably the most feared man in Cambodia," Adams
Gen. Neth Savoeun, Hok Lundy's deputy and Hun Sen's
nephew-in-law, has been named to replace the late police chief. Hok Lundy faced
accusations of murder, extrajudicial killings and human trafficking, as well as
collaboration in the 1997 grenade attack on opposition supporters that killed
Neth Savoeun, who was the head of the criminal police
section in the Phnom Penh Municipal Police, comes from the same security
system, Adams said.
"Even in the 1980s, [Neth Savoeun] had a reputation for
being among the most violent members of a very repressive security system," Adams said. "He too has been implicated in many serious
human rights abuses and other crimes over the past two decades."
That appointment will likely not be challenged by Sar Kheng,
Gen. Neth Savoeun declined comment.
Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Interior
Ministry and adviser to Sar Kheng, dismissed the allegations, saying the police
were on a five-year plan to maintain stability.
Even the US
had shown Hok Lundy was "clean," he said, and had offered him a visa in 2007 to
for talks with the FBI.
"We know that Brad Adams has never talked good about our
Khieu Sopheak said. "The facts differ from what he says."
He denied a factional split within the CPP, citing the
party's win of 90 of 123 National Assembly seats in July's elections as proof
"Brad Adams' comments bear no merit," he said. "I mean, the
dog barks, and the CPP cart moves ahead to 90 seats."
Kek Galabru, founder of the rights group Licadho, declined
to comment on Hok Lundy's reputation, following Cambodian tradition, but said
she hoped the new police chief would better honor human rights.
"I am speaking carefully because he has died, and we should
not curse the dead," she said. "Cambodians know His Excellency Hok Lundy, so I
don't need to comment more. The US
government denied him a visa, so we all know there were a lot of allegations."
Her sentiments were echoed by Lt. Gen. Sok Phal, another Hok
Lundy deputy, who warned reporters off strong criticism last week, asking they
not "write something irrelevant which would impact the Khmers or our leaders"
and should "write proper articles in his name, as the leader of the national