Members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s family on Thursday denied accusations of grand corruption leveled against them by a major anti-corruption watchdog that said the Huns had amassed more than $200 million in business interests.
The Hostile Takeover report released by Global Witness on Thursday morning said Hun Sen’s family owned or controlled part of companies with a listed share value of just under $215 million, including firms accused of land grabbing, violence and other human rights abuses.
The NGO said the figure was likely to only be a small fraction of the family’s total net worth, which it suggested was obscured by the use of shell companies and nominee owners.
The report’s release came amid a tense political standoff between Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party ahead of elections scheduled for the coming two years.
Hun To, Hun Sen’s nephew, told VOA that he was not aware of the report, but when pressed questioned whether any of the business holdings of the family were illegal.
“I don’t really know about this issue. Don’t ask me [about it],” he said.
Hun Mana, Hun Sen’s eldest daughter and the director of Bayon TV, wrote on Facebook that she “understood the intentions” of Global Witness.
“And as expected every time when we are near election time, your organization always comes out with something to try to tarnish my [father’s] reputation. Anyhow, we thank you for your destructive efforts, which as a consequence will help my father in the coming election as they are lies and deceitful to confuse the public about what my [f]ather has accomplished.”
Meanwhile, Hun Manet, the premier’s eldest son and a senior general in the army, also took to Facebook to air his displeasure with the report.
“From my recent memory, whenever it is close to an election time, an organization called Global Witness has come up with very colorful accusations aimed at attacking the government and, in particular, making personal attack on my father,” he wrote. “It is that time again and there is nothing new to their subjects of concern. This time, though, Global Witness does it in a slightly different way. Through its coordination with [the] Cambodia Daily and Phnom Penh Post, it has expanded the scope for their accusation targeting not only against my father, but against every single member of my entire family. So what is next?”
Mana was found in the report to control the largest number of business holdings, with interests in 22 companies with a listed share capital of more than $66 million.
Three of Hun Sen’s children, including Mana, are also listed as shareholders in Cambodia Electricity Private, a company run by tycoon Ly Yong Phat’s family that sells energy to the state.
The family’s companies span most major sectors of the economy, with links to international brands such as Apple, Nokia, Visa, Unilever, Procter and Gamble, Nestle, Durex and Honda.
“These revelations point to a cruel irony of Hun Sen’s model of dictatorship – his family has Cambodia’s economy so sewn up that Phnom Penh residents are likely to struggle to avoid lining the pockets of their oppressors multiple times a day,” Patrick Alley, Co-Founder of Global Witness said in the report.
“Foreign investors, on the other hand, can and should opt out of bankrolling a regime that kills, intimidates or locks up its critics,” he added.
Sok Eysan, a spokesman for the CPP, said the report, which was based largely on official data from the Ministry of Commerce, was “biased” and did not have a “clear basis”.
“It’s merely … jealousy and narrow-mindedness, fabrication,” he said. “So that’s all there is to say about this story.”