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National Police Chief Addresses Rights Abuse Allegations

Cambodian National Police Chief General Hok Lundy told VOA Khmer on Wednesday that he is not concerned his visa to visit the US this week could be canceled, despite the outcry during the past 48 hours from international human rights groups.

The powerful ally of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told VOA Khmer that he provides essential assistance to US regional efforts to "fight international terrorism" as well as drug and human trafficking and denied he was involved in serious crimes and violence against average Cambodians.

Hok Lundy, who was denied a visa to visit the US last year because of alleged ties to international human trafficking networks, said he is looking forward to visiting Washington later this week as head of a Cambodian delegation to conduct official talks with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He noted that the agenda of his visit was provided to him by US Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli on Wednesday morning in Phnom Penh.

VOA Khmer's Heng Reaksmey conducted a telephone interview Wednesday with Hok Lundy. Below is a transcript, translated from Khmer into English.

Q: The Human Rights Watch (international rights group based in New York) statement released Tuesday accused you of a number of serious crimes. What is your reaction to these allegations?

A: Thank you VOA for allowing me to express my opinion regarding the allegations of this human rights organization. As I said before, a number of people who are unhappy with me tend to accuse me of human rights violations when I perform my duties as police commissioner and leader. As an example, this human rights organization accuses me of being behind the use of force, involving the 1997 grenade attack, in front of Parliament.

This accusation is totally false. For about 10 years now, since the grenade attack in front of Parliament, we made efforts to conduct investigations thoroughly to find the culprits. The Ministry of Interior established a commission to lead this investigation. The then co-ministers of Interior made a request to the US FBI to help in the search for the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

I don't understand why this human rights organization accused me of being behind the grenade attack. I want to say that this allegation is false. If HRW has enough evidence to back the allegations, I urge them to bring evidence to the head of our government so we can take action to arrest the criminals and bring them to justice. HRW must not say what is not true. If it has enough evidence, it must bring it to the head of our government.

Q: Another HRW allegation is that you were involved in ordering the bloody events of July 5 and July 6, 1997, the fighting between forces loyal to Norodom Ranariddh and those of Hun Sen. What do you think of this allegation?

A: The event of July 5 and July 6, 1997, is a general event. It involved the emergence of an anarchic group that wanted to overthrow the government. I think after the end of the event, the international and national opinions are that all eyes have seen the clear picture.

At that time, the legal head of government ordered the army and the national police to defend the political stability and security to prevent the anarchists from overthrowing the government. Thus, the army and the department of defense and its commander, and I as the commander of the National Police, have the obligation to fully defend the political stability, security and social order.

I think the people who accuse me of ordering the July 5 and July 6 armed struggle, are correct in one sense, but my duties as commander and National Chief of Police required that I defend the royal government because the government was legally created. If there is an illegal force that intends to overthrow the government, not only me, but army forces that have the obligation as a tool of the government, must defend and protect at all cost.

Q: You rejected the HRW allegations. As a top member of the government, what do you think HRW should do?

A: As an individual, I only urge HRW to reconsider their improper allegations which could affect the work relationship of the national police, especially with us directly, who used to have direct contact with human rights organization, because currently police authorities have constant contact with human rights groups in promotion, education of the national police that they have programs to educate the National Police forces in the provinces, as well as in the case of violence against civilians that requires the national police authority to intervene and defend. And if HRW accuses me as commander-in-chief of the National Police, this would affect the morale of the local National Police forces. So, I urge HRW to reconsider this issue and before raising another allegation, they should have proper evidence so that their report will not become an attack or the defamation or propaganda of an opposition party that doesn't like the government.

Q: When do you intend to leave Cambodia by the invitation from FBI? A: With the FBI invitation to our National Police delegation, I have the consent of the Ministry of Interior and the head of the government, Samdech Hun Sen, allowing our delegation to leave (Cambodia) on the 20th to work officially in DC with the FBI.

Q: After the release of the HRW report will there be any change to the visa (status) decision of you and your delegation?

A: There will not be any change because my delegation is prepared to depart because, until now, it is not only the FBI who invites us to work with them, according to the program given to us by the US Ambassador to Cambodia on Wednesday morning April 18, but there is a plan to meet a US undersecretary of state in order to exchange views in preparing a number of reports relating to the goal of the US government knowing the work of the Cambodian authorities; and, second, (a plan to meet with) the Justice Department that works in partnership with, and has invited the FBI and DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), which are against (illegal) drugs coming to the US; thirdly, the Homeland Security Department plans to meet our delegation as part of our work program (in the US). I understand these are three institutions that plan to meet our delegation to work allowing our delegation to meet and report, exchange the situation and seek directions to coordinate work with Khmer authorities in the future. I think, relating to visas, there won't be any change.

Q: What cooperation will Cambodia offer to the US where your delegation participates in the meeting on the prevention of terrorism?

A: I have prepared in principle, with the consent of the Minister of Interior Sar Kheng and with PM Hun Sen, that the point of the cooperation with the US, with the three institutions we plan to meet, the first big issue is the cooperation to prevent the international terrorism. Because today the terrorism issue is the issue that the work is focused on. Therefore, the Cambodian National Police is also a part of the long-term cooperation with the US institutions that are involved in the prevention of terrorism around the world.

Secondly, on other crimes, so called transnational crime, across borders, is also very essential for the Cambodian National Police to cooperate with the US side on solving these problems.

Thirdly, relating to the women and child trafficking issue, human trafficking, which is also the strong focus of the US and the world, we also plan to discuss and receive good recommendations from the US side in order to solve and improve our work in Cambodia.

Fourthly, the issue relating to the prevention of drug trafficking. The drug issue, also, is an issue of strong interest to the US government, in our area, and we are also concerned because the drug problem is a problem that the world must pay attention to. I think the cooperation with the US, with the DEA, is very critical, that requires the exchange of opinions, in order to increase the effectiveness of the control and prevention in Cambodia.

Q: Thank you, Commissioner General Hok Lundy for the VOA Khmer interview.

A: Thank you very much.