US slammed over BGU head For­eign Min­istry says sanc­tions vi­o­late in­ter­na­tional prin­ci­ples

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE - Mech Dara

THE Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion (MFAIC) has con­demned the US De­part­ment of Trea­sury for its sanc­tions, an­nounced on Tues­day, against Cam­bo­dian Gen­eral Hing Bun Heang for his alleged role in in­fring­ing hu­man rights.

In a state­ment, the min­istry said it is dis­turb­ing that a pub­lic fig­ure such as he, faces such puni­tive mea­sures based on “ground­less ac­counts and ac­cu­sa­tions that are in to­tal dis­re­gard to the le­gal and ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence of Cam­bo­dia”.

“This is a fla­grant vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional prin­ci­ples of sov­er­eign equal­ity and non­in­ter­fer­ence in the do­mes­tic af­fairs of other states,” the MFAIC said.

It also dis­missed “the pur­ported en­gage­ment of Cam­bo­dian armed forces in a se­ries of se­ri­ous of vi­o­lent abuses and crimes against its peo­ple”.

On the con­trary, the MFAIC said, it is a gen­eral un­der­stand- ing that Bun Heang and the Prime Min­is­ter’s Body­guard Unit have con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the main­te­nance of peace, sta­bil­ity and so­cial or­der es­pe­cially in the de­fence of in­de­pen­dence and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity from for­eign in­va­sion.

“The most glar­ing irony of jus­tice is the fact that the former US ad­min­is­tra­tion spear­headed a coali­tion that sup­ported the Kh­mer Rouge regime, which ruled the coun­try with com­plete con­tempt for hu­man rights and democ­racy, to oc­cupy the Cam­bo­dian seat at the UN, and to en­gen­der un­just 12-year sanc­tions against a na­tion dev­as­tated by

more than two mil­lion tonnes of US bombs.”

The MFAIC also said it con­strues the US ac­tion as part of a se­ries of co­or­di­nated at­tacks tar­get­ing the Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ment’s im­age in the run-up to the July 29 na­tional elec­tions.

“We note with a ques­tion mark that the US gov­ern­ment has never pub­licly rep­ri­manded cer­tain op­po­si­tion el­e­ments in Cam­bo­dia, which con­duct their po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties by ways of in­sult, racism, xeno­pho­bia, so­cial ha­tred and defama­tion, all of which are mas­sively con­demned in any demo­cratic coun­try,” it said.

‘Vi­o­lat­ing sovereignty’

The MFAIC state­ment comes a day af­ter the US said it would deny Bun Heang a visa and freeze all as­sets he has in the US.

Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen’s Cab­i­net also con­demned the US ac­tion and said it con­sid­ered the de­ci­sion as ground­less and an act of ag­gres­sion against the King­dom’s sovereignty.

Its state­ment said: “What Amer­ica just did was a vi­o­la­tion of the sovereignty of an in­de­pen­dent na­tion, which does not func­tion un­der US laws.

“In ad­di­tion, we should ques­tion the US be­cause the US mil­i­tary came to kill mil­lions of Cam­bo­di­ans in the 1970s and rem­nants of those bombs are still be­ing dis­cov­ered to­day. Is this not a vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights by the US?”

How­ever, in jus­ti­fy­ing its ac­tion, the US claimed that pur­suant to Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 13818, which tar­gets per­pe­tra­tors of cor­rup­tion and se­ri­ous hu­man rights abuse and cor­rup­tion, Bun Heang com­manded a Cam­bo­dian unit that en­gaged in a se­ries of hu­man rights abuses.

It claimed he was per­son­ally im­pli­cated in at­tacks against a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing a US citizen, and there­fore would deny him any US visa and freeze all as­sets he has in the US.

The Cam­bo­dian Min­istry of Na­tional De­fence, mean­while, ex­pressed “re­gret” at the ac­tion.

“The Min­istry of Na­tional De­fence of the King­dom of Cam­bo­dia greatly regrets, re­jects and condemns the overly ag­gres­sive ac­tion of the US Trea­sury De­part­ment, which de­cided to freeze as­sets of this se­nior of­fi­cer of the Royal Cam­bo­dian Armed Forces,” the state­ment be­gins.

“The de­ci­sion to freeze as­sets on such a high-rank­ing Cam­bo­dian of­fi­cial is a vi­o­la­tion of Cam­bo­dian laws, a sov­er­eign state, is very un­fair and a de­ci­sion made with no ev­i­dence,” it con­tin­ued.

How­ever, Bun Heang him­self was un­af­fected by the news. Speak­ing to The Post, he said, “I am very happy and most sat­is­fied. I’m thank­ful at the de­ci­sion by the US to sanc­tion me.

‘Thank you’

“First of all, I never have money to put in a bank. Se­condly, I have no as­sets, and I al­ways fol­low the poli­cies of [Hun Sen], by con­tribut­ing to the build­ing of schools, high schools, pago­das, canals and roads for the peo­ple . . . Thank you for pun­ish­ing me,” he said.

On Oc­to­ber 26, mem­bers of the nowdis­solved Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party (CNRP) were dragged from their cars and bru­tally beaten by Bun Heang’s men.

In 1997, Hun Sen’s Body­guard Unit was im­pli­cated by the US Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion in an alleged as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt on Sam Rainsy at a po­lit­i­cal rally in Phnom Penh, in which 16 to 20 peo­ple were killed, in­clud­ing two 13-year-old chil­dren, a jour­nal­ist and sev­eral fe­male gar­ment workers.

Among the hun­dreds wounded in the in­ci­dent was an Amer­i­can named Ron Ab­ney, which prompted US in­volve­ment in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Pun­ish­ment ‘too light’

A state­ment by the CNRP, is­sued on Tues­day, said the sig­na­to­ries fully sup-

When the US starts, other coun­tries in Europe will be­gin to sim­i­larly pres­sure the gov­ern­ment

ported the US ac­tions against Bun Heang. How­ever, it said that the pun­ish­ment was too light.

Hang Vi­tou, who heads the Youth An­a­lyst Group, said freez­ing as­sets of se­nior of­fi­cials of the De­fence Min­istry is just a first step for the US.

“The US will keep putting pres­sure and tak­ing ac­tions in re­sponse [to gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials] be­fore next month’s na­tional elec­tions. When the US starts, other coun­tries in Europe will be­gin to sim­i­larly pres­sure the gov­ern­ment,” he said.

PHILIPPE COTTIN/AFP

Sam Rainsy, then-pres­i­dent of the Kh­mer Na­tion Party, is car­ried away in a state of shock af­ter a grenade at­tack out­side the Na­tional As­sem­bly build­ing on March 30, 1997. The at­tack left at least 16 peo­ple dead and 119 in­jured.

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