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Graft Arrests Prompt Questions of ACU Motive

Cambodia's Ministry of the Interior in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia's Ministry of the Interior in Phnom Penh.

The recent corruption arrests of four policemen within the ruling Cambodian People’s Party have raised questions of whether there is friction within the party or whether the new Anti-Corruption Unit is flexing new muscles.

The police officials, who were arrested for corruption in connection with drug trafficking, were arrested in recent weeks following an investigation by the ACU, which is headed by a senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Om Yentieng.

Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party, a minority opposition, said time will tell.

“If it’s an internal dispute or twisting within the internal party, we could see this as a beginning of a fracture,” he said. On the other hand, if it is the “true will” of the government, it’s a “good matter” for Cambodians, he said.

Those arrested were Moek Dara, former secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs; Hun Hean, former police chief of Banteay Meanchey province; his deputy, Chheang Son; and Chea Leang, an official in the Ministry of Interior’s anti-drug office.

Moek Dara is a former police chief of Battambang province, a political stronghold of Interior Minister Sar Kheng. Hun Hean was once Sar Kheng’s chief bodyguard.

In a ceremony in Prey Veng province, Sar Kheng denied the arrests had targeted anyone by affiliation.

“I think everyone must follow the law and respect the law in fulfilling their duty,” said Sar Kheng. “If anyone commits wrongdoing, that person must face legal action.”

However, Chan Saveth, chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the arrests did follow officials promoted through a political channel. He cautioned against the ACU “bringing the political process” into investigation of “to show off to the public.”