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In Graft Case, Another Cambodian-Born Servicemen Faces US Courts

U.S. navy officer Michael "Vannak Khem" Misiewicz becomes emotional as he embraces his aunt Samrith Sokha, 72, at Cambodian coastal international sea port of Sihanoukville, file photo.

WASHINGTON DC - A Cambodian-born US naval commander is facing criminal charges for passing key information to a Malaysian defense contractor, in an ongoing scandal that has put US defense officials on edge.

Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz is facing federal charges in a San Diego court, making him the second Cambodian-born serviceman to face courts over military misconduct in recent years.

The second, Seivirak Inson, as US military intelligence officer, is serving time in prison for allegedly selling US secrets to the Cambodian military.

Cambodian-Americans in the US say such charges, and the media attention they garner, are regretful, but they do hold lessons about the US and its approach to bribery and scandals, even for high-ranking military personnel.

“An individual, whether Cambodian-American or other national, they will be punished if they violate the law,” said Schanley Kuch, an independent political analyst who lives in Maryland, told VOA Khmer.

Misiewicz is accused of passing confidential information on ship routes to a Singaporean company, where they were subject to inflated costs and other graft schemes, in exchange for gifts and favors.

Declining to comment on this case specifically, Samuel Locklear, a US naval commander for the Pacific Command, told VOA Khmer such cases are troubling in general and must be closely examined.

“The aspects of counterintelligence are, in a military organization, are always troubling and always have to be assessed as they occur,” he said. “In all of our countries, we all work very hard to ensure that the impacts of these types of things are limited.”

Seivirak Inson, meanwhile, is serving 10 years in prison for allegedly selling secrets to Cambodia.

“After he finishes his time in prison, he will be dismissed from the Army,” Jeffrey Pool, a military spokesman at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said.

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh denied having US documents. “I do not have it,” he said. “I don’t know about this information.”