The Cambodian-born US Naval Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, who is at the center of a major corruption scandal in the US, was once the pride of many Cambodian communities.
Five years ago, Misiewicz, who was adopted by American parents as a boy, in 1973, docked in the coastal town of Sihanoukville to great fanfare. In January, he confessed to a raft of charges, for allegedly trading military secrets to a Singaporean contractor in exchange for gifts, including luxury travel and prostitutes.
Misiewicz, a 48-year-old graduate of the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland, has been a main feature in what has turned into a major scandal for the Navy, one that could embroil more than 100 people through the ranks. Up until late January, he had maintained his innocence.
For many Cambodians, including those living in the US, his 2013 arrest and subsequent investigation were a shock.
Heng Thal Savuth, a security officer at a public school in Maine, said he was disappointed in the scandal. However, he said, Misiewicz’s confession demonstrates that legal systems in the US actually work.
“His confession shows that the US legal system is effective and that no one can joke with it,” he said.
“In the US, when you work for the government you have to understand the code of ethics at the workplace,” said Hean Yuth, himself a former naval officer, who now serves at the Department of Homeland Security. “This means you should stay away from corruption and abide by the law, especially when you’re doing procurement.”
Kuch Schanley, a school counselor in Maryland, who was also adopted by Americans, said the case was a major disappointment, because Misiewicz had represented a success story. “We were all proud of him for moving that high,” he said.
His own adoption added an extra level of caution, Kuch Schanley said. “I’m always mindful to protect my family honor. I always protect the honor of the people who adopted me and brought me up like their own kid. I always think twice before doing anything not to disgrace them.”