The chairman of the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) threatened to reveal secret information connected to corruption cases involving opposition party leaders after Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Sam Rainsy criticized the unit yesterday for promising to investigate allegedly unknown sources of CNRP Deputy President Kem Sokha’s wealth.
The ACU announced last week that it had determined alleged recordings of Mr. Sokha speaking to a mistress did in fact feature the deputy president’s voice. The discovery prompted the ACU to start investigating a complaint submitted by a youth group accusing Mr. Sokha of corruption, a move that will lead the unit to open three of Mr. Sokha’s previously sealed asset declarations.
Mr. Rainsy criticized the ACU in a Facebook post yesterday, saying the investigation was illegitimate, as Mr. Sokha’s assets were a private matter rather than one for government intervention. Only members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) could be guilty of government corruption, Mr. Rainsy added.
“Only officials from the ruling CPP can be involved in government corruption because the ACU is talking about an abuse of power. Since the CNRP is in the opposition and has no government power, it cannot be involved in government corruption,” Mr. Rainsy wrote.
“Therefore, any person not representing the government and only spending his own money, that doesn’t come from public funds, cannot be accused of corruption.”
Mr. Rainsy also suggested the ACU change the focus of its investigation and address important issues related to government corruption, such as deforestation, land grabbing, destructive activities perpetuated in unregulated mines and quarries, the effects of sand dredging on the environment, the selling of state assets, the embezzlement of public funds, the absence of open and transparent public bidding for state procurement, smuggling activities by powerful people through “dry ports” and private ports that cause huge losses of revenue for the state among others.
ACU Chairman Om Yentieng blasted Mr. Rainsy’s claims, saying they were designed to confuse Cambodian people. Mr. Rainsy, he alleged, had abused the law without understanding it.
Mr. Yentieng added that so far no CNRP officials have been arrested by the ACU and that the unit is obliged to investigate any suspected corruption cases based on the law. Mr. Yentieng also threatened to reveal information about suspected corruption cases tied to Mr. Rainsy and his fellow officials. There was no mention of the legality of releasing such information in his comments, despite the explicitly private nature of the investigations.
“He [Rainsy] is now saying that they are untouchable. They are now lawmakers. They seem to believe that we could not touch or take action against them. What would happen if they had the full power of the state in the future? There is information involving Rainsy and the party’s officials in corruption cases that are currently under investigation,” Mr. Yentieng said.
CNRP spokesmen Yem Ponhearith and Yim Sovann, nor senior officials Eng Chhai Eang and Son Chhay, could be reached for comment yesterday.
The ACU can investigate any complaint which it suspects is tied to corruption, said Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol, adding that Mr. Sokha as a lawmaker is not exempt from the unit’s jurisdiction. He hoped, however, that the ACU would carry out the investigation independently and not bend to any political pressure.
“An ACU investigation can be undertaken on suspicion of corruption by any person no matter if they are from the ruling or opposition party, as long as the ACU has sufficient evidence for the investigation,” Mr. Kol said.
Srey Chamroeun, a representative of the newly-formed youth group that demanded Mr. Sokha explain his involvement in an alleged sexual affair, led more than 200 students yesterday wearing shirts emblazoned with the CNRP logo in a gathering in front of the National Assembly in order to submit another petition asking for Mr. Sokha to be summoned for questioning.
The group also went to the UNCHR office and the CNRP headquarters on motorbikes and cars, claiming the affair and corruption allegations were human rights issues.
Speaking to reporters “as a voter,” Mr. Chamroeun said Mr. Sokha should not reject his request to ask questions. He condemned avoidance as a serious violation to the constitutional democracy in Cambodia.
“Sokha is not a real politician. He tried to avoid the request of a citizen.”
On Monday, the assembly sent its second letter requesting Mr. Sokha explain himself regarding Mr. Chamroeun’s complaint. On the same day, Eng Chhai Eang, a senior CNRP official, responded to the assembly’s president by saying there is no article in the Cambodian constitutional and assembly regulations to summon a lawmaker.
A student group protesting against opposition leader Kem Sokha held CNRP banners as they demonstrated throughout the city. KT/ Mai Vireak