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Police Chief's US Visit Unaffected by Outcry, Officials Say

The US visit of National Police Chief Hok Lundy will continue as planned, despite calls this week for the US State Department to rescind his visa, officials said Wednesday. Hok Lundy plans to travel to Washington April 19 through April 14 for talks with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on counterterrorism and human and drug trafficking, but his visit has been sharply criticized by rights workers. His trip is "common practice," US Embassy Spokesman Jeff Daigle told VOA Wednesday.

Security officials often make trips to the US to meet with their counterparts and strengthen relationships, he said. "And that's exactly what Hok Lundy is trying to do."

Human Rights Watch Tuesday implicated Hok Lundy in a number of crimes, including extrajudicial killings in the 1997 coup and orchestrating a grenade attack on opposition supporters that same year. The group called on US officials to revoke his visa.

In 2006 Hok Lundy was refused a US visa to attend an anti-crime conference on "confusing allegations" that he was involved in human and drug trafficking, the police chief said last year.

He was granted a visa this year to visit Washington for "compelling reasons," a State Department spokesman said.

Human Rights Watch officials remained concerned that his visit would send a negative message to Cambodians.

"This is a very cynical gesture on the part of the US," said Sophie Richardson, a rights worker with the group, "to on one hand talk about how important human rights and the rule of law are in Cambodia, but to invite to visit the FBI somebody who is deeply implicated in violating these rights."

Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the US had made the "right decision" in inviting the general to Washington, and that accusations made against him were "groundless."

To listen to VOA Khmer's interview with Hok Lundy, click here.