A Change of Guard

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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Deputy PM Hor Namhong to sue Rainsy for Khmer Rouge remarks

By Neth Pheaktra
The Mekong Times

Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong (pictured) is to sue Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) President Sam Rainsy for defamation. The case will center on Sam Rainsy’s Apr 17 statement linking Hor Namhong to the Khmer Rouge, said Sin Bunthoeurn, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Apr 19.

Hor Namhong, also minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, is to discuss the case with his lawyer Kar Savuth today prior to filing a complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Sin Bunthoern said.

Sam Rainsy accused high-ranking officials of being former Khmer Rouge cadres in an Buddhist ceremony held to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the Khmer Rouge’s rise to power and to pay tribute to victims of the Khmer Rouge at the Choeung Ek “killing fields.” Although he used no names, there was little doubt as to whom the opposition leader was referring.

“There were at least two ministers who worked as secretary and advisor to Pol Pot,” Sam Rainsy claimed. “Now one is … minister of economy and finance and the other is deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs … [The second] used to be director of the Boeung Trabek Prison during the Khmer Rouge regime.”

Boeung Trabek was an infamous Khmer Rouge “re-education” center for aristocrats, former diplomats and intellectuals who returned to Cambodia following an appeal from former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary.

“The person who worked as prison director was very powerful,” Sam Rainsy said, warning that, even today, “if he ‘points to’ anyone, they will disappear tomorrow.”

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon is thought to be the other figure referred to by Sam Rainsy.

Sin Bunthoeurn said that Hor Namhong considered Sam Rainsy’s statement unfair, as his two younger sisters were jailed in Boeung Trabek and executed by the Khmer Rouge.

Sam Rainsy, who is currently in the US, has yet to make a comment but Eng Chhay Eang, SRP secretary general defended Sam Rainsy’s remarks.

“Sam Rainsy did not name Hor Namhong or any other person so, if any person lodges a complaint, it means that person is involved.”

Kek Galabru, president of local human rights group Licadho, said the dispute could be settled by the courts, but not before a calm discussion. “[They] must not sue each other,” she said, warning that a prison term for Sam Rainsy may curtail freedom of expression, as “no one would dare to speak or write [anything] in future.”

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia spokesman Reach Sambath declined comment.

According to the book Les Clés du Cambodge by Raoul M. Jennar, Hor Hamhong joined the National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK) in 1970 and became the ambassador of the Royal Government of National Union of Kampuchea (GRUNK) to Cuba in 1973. In 1975 he was recalled to Phnom Penh by Democratic Kampuchea authorities and was interned at Boeung Trabek in 1977.

The post that Hor Namhong held at Boeung Trabek camp 1977-79 was just a “protocol function,” according to the Dictionary of Khmer Rouge by Solomon Kane. Hor Namhong participated in founding the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK).

On Jan 23 1991, the Paris Tribunal found Hor Namhong innocent of the charges leveled by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who stated that “Hor Namhong commanded a Khmer Rouge concentration camp,” and accused him of complicity in murders including Prince Sisowath Methavi, brother in-law of former Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk.

(Note from Khmerization: The Paris Tribunal did not make any judgement regarding Hor Namhong's involvements in the Khmer Rouge crimes. As such it did not declare Hor Namhong innocent or guilty of the crimes. The tribunal made the judgement in favour of Hor Namhong simply because Sihanouk refused to attend the court hearing).

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