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Football Federation responds to HRW critics

Ismail Vorajee / Khmer Times Share:
Keisuke Honda was rebuked by Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch. KT / Yeun Punlue

The Football Federation of Cambodia has issued a response to a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report criticising the partnership between its General Manager Keisuke Honda and FFC President Sao Sokha.

Last week, Japanese football star Honda was rebuked by Brad Adams, executive director of Asia at HRW for taking on a leadership role in the Cambodian national team.

The International human rights watchdog, in a piece titled ‘Japan: Football Star Working for Rights Abuser’, said that “Keisuke Honda’s agreement to coach Cambodia’s national soccer team links him to a senior Cambodian official implicated in alleged war crimes.

“The allegations are intended to disrupt the development of football in Asia and the rest of the world, reads a statement released Friday by the FFC. “Under the leadership of General Sao Sokha, [Cambodia] has excelled as a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the Asian Football Federation (AFF), and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

The Federation said the General had been integral in helping to develop Cambodian football thanks to the help of the AFF, AFC, and FIFA and developing Cambodian Football towards the 2023 SEA Games.

The statement also outlined General Sokha and the Federations work towards social contributions including eliminating the use of illicit drugs among the youth, raising respect for traffic laws, awareness of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, unexploded ordnance, and environmental protection.

“Keisuke Honda is a beloved footballer who has participated in the FIFA World Cup. He has kindly volunteered to contribute to the development of football in Cambodia and this should be celebrated,” it concluded.

In a surprise move, Honda took over as GM in August and is leading the Kouprey’s alongside Argentinian head coach Felix Dalmas. Honda, who is continuing his playing career at Melbourne Victory, is also is part-owner of Siem Reap-based Soltilo Angkor FC.

Support of General Sokha was bolstered by the government who issued a statement through spokesman Phay Siphan; “The Royal Government of Cambodia considers HRW’s leadership as uncivilised, self-appointed and politically motivated. [HRW] is leading a subversive campaign against all Cambodian youth movements in sport. HRW’s Asia executive director [Brad Adams] is increasingly proving itself to be an aggressive organisation,” reads the statement.

HRW said it had sent a letter to Honda, dated December 3, 2018, which was last week republished by Brad Adams, HRW Executive Regional Director of Asia.

The organisation expressed astonishment that a player with the visibility of Honda was happy to work alongside General Sokha whom it alleged was “the general of the blood-stained-in uniform because of involvement in countless killings. Deadly and war crimes in Cambodia.”

General Sokha is serving a fourth term as President of Cambodian football’s organising body and was first elected in 2006.

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