Cambodian National Police Chief Hok Lundy has been invited to participate in an organized crime and terrorism workshop in the US, senior police officials told VOA Wednesday, but it is unclear if he can go because he has been denied a visa in the past for potential involvement in sex trafficking.
The International Conference on Asian Organized Crime and Terrorism, scheduled for April 1 in Las Vegas, has invited Gen. Hok Lundy to lead a Cambodian delegation, police officials said.
Hok Lundy told VOA last year that he was denied a US visa to attend a 2006 conference and blamed "confusing allegations" of "a link to, or involvement in, the problem of sexual trafficking of women and children in Cambodia."
Officials from the US Embassy in Phnom Penh and the Federal Bureau of Investigation repeatedly declined to comment to VOA on Hok Lundy's visa, but the commander himself and several of his staff said they anticipated going.
The invitation comes at a time when Cambodia is enjoying improved relations with the US, which continues to seek terror suspects in the region.
"The US anti-terrorism committee invited us for a meeting in Las Vegas," said Hok Lundy's deputy, Lt. Gen. Sok Phal.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak told VOA Hok Lundy and his delegation had permission from the ministry to go to Vegas.
"He formally asked for permission from the ministry, and the ministry approved him to lead the delegation," Khieu Sopheak said.
Sok Phal said the delegation would include himself, Hok Lundy as head; Maj. Gen. Meach Sophana, deputy chief of intelligence; Brig. Gen. Bith Kim Hong, anti-terrorism department chief; and Brig. Gen. Keo Van Than, first deputy chief of the Cambodian police Interpol department.
Keo Van Than said invitations had come from the conference organizers and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Brig. Gen. Keo Van Than, who is one of the delegates, re-iterated that there are two collective invitations (separate invitations), one from the organization of international Asian crimes investigator specialists that comprise 13 law enforcement XXX and the second is from the FBI.
"This [group] made an invitation to the national police chief's secretariat," he said. "The FBI made an invitation too." Jeff Daigle, spokesman for the embassy, said by e-mail he could not comment on visa applications.
"As matter of law, details of visa applications are privileged information and cannot be discussed with the press," he wrote. "Therefore we are unable to confirm or deny if someone has made an application for a visa or the status or outcome of any such request."
A communication official for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Betsy Glick, declined comment to VOA, with no elaboration.
Cambodia has co-operated with the US in the past on anti-terrorism operations. Several regional terror suspects have been arrested in Cambodia, and anti-aircraft rockets left over from decades of conflict were recently publicly destroyed so they would not fall into the hands of terrorists.
Just last month the US Congress lifted long-standing restrictions on direct aid to Cambodia.