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Cablegate: While Hrr Provides Opportunity to Focus On

VZCZCXRO4633
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0254/01 0740605
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140605Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000254

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, EAP/RSP, AND G/TIP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL KWMN PGOV CB
SUBJECT: WHILE HRR PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY TO FOCUS ON
PROBLEMATIC CASE OF CHEA VICHEA, INITIAL OVERALL RGC
REACTION DEFENSIVE

REF: A. CAMPBELL-DORSEY EMAIL (03/13/08)

B. 2007 CAMBODIA COUNTRY REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS
PRACTICES
C. STATE 24302
D. PHNOM PENH 141 - FBI DIRECTOR ROBERT MUELLER'S
MEETINGS WITH CAMBODIA PM HUN SEN AND
DPM SAR KHENG
E. 06 PHNOM PENH 1404 - PROTESTERS DEMAND REOPENING
OF CHEA VICHEA MURDER CASE
F. 04 PHNOM PENH 302 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary: As part of post's dissemination of the
2007 Cambodia Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the
Deputy Chief of Mission presented the final report to
Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice Chan Sotheavy.

SIPDIS
Post also sent copies of the report to the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Minister of Justice, and to President of the
Cambodian Human Rights Committee Om Yentieng, per the
Department's instruction cable on the 2007 Human Rights
Report rollout (Ref C). During the meeting with MOJ
Secretary of State Chan Sotheavy, the DCM took the

SIPDIS
opportunity to raise the Chea Vichea murder case. Press
coverage of the HRR was generally balanced and focused both
on areas in which improvements had been noted and areas in
which Cambodia,s performance continued to be poor. However,
the Cambodian Government reacted defensively to the report,
with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs releasing a press
statement (Ref A) rejecting the HRR,s findings, claiming
that our sources were only NGOs and opposition parties, and
suggesting that the release,s timing was politically
motivated in advance of Cambodia,s July election. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) As part of post's dissemination of the 2007
Cambodia Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the Deputy
Chief of Mission presented the final report to Ministry of
Justice Secretary of State Chan Sotheavy. The DCM expressed
her hope that the U.S. Government and the Royal Government of
Cambodia can have the same cooperative working relationship
on human rights issues as we do on trafficking in persons.
Chan Sotheavy was the primary MOJ drafter of Cambodia's
recently-issued comprehensive anti-TIP law, an achievement
for which the DCM congratulated Chan Sotheavy during the
meeting. Chan Sotheavy readily accepted the copy of the
report, stating that she will pass it on to the Minister of
Justice.

Case of Wrongful Conviction
---------------------------

3. (SBU) The DCM pointed out to Chan Sotheavy that the
questionable convictions and imprisonment of two men who are
accused of the 2004 killing of labor leader Chea Vichea were
included in the HRR yet again this year (sections 1a and 1e
of Ref B). The DCM raised the continuing concern about the
judicial process used to convict the two individuals, and
inquired about the possibility for the case to be reviewed
now that the defense lawyers have submitted the case to the
Supreme Court. The DCM repeated FBI Director Mueller's offer
during his January 31 meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen
(Ref D) that the FBI would be willing to assist in any way
possible to resolve still-lingering doubts about the
investigation into the murder. For example, an eyewitness to
the murder is said to reside in the U.S. and her testimony
was not considered during the Appeals Court hearing because
she was in the U.S. Mueller offered that the FBI could
depose the eyewitness in the U.S. and have that information
made available to the Cambodian courts. (Note: Mueller's
offer was met with silence during the meeting with PM Hun
Sen; the topic was dropped without resolution or RGC comment.
End note.) The DCM pointed out to Chan Sotheavy that
Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana attended the meeting
with FBI Director Mueller.

Supreme Court has Limited Role
------------------------------

4. (SBU) Chan Sotheavy confirmed that defense lawyers of the
two convicted men, Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang have
submitted the case to the Supreme Court. However, one of
Chan Sotheavy's aides attending the meeting expressed doubt
that the Supreme Court would admit new evidence or testimony.
He stated that the role of the Cambodian Supreme Court is to
decide whether the lower court made a proper decision under
the law, not to review new witness testimony if it had not
been raised with a lower court. The aide repeated Chan
Sotheavy's statement that the defense lawyers could certainly
try to do so, but expressed his understanding that such

PHNOM PENH 00000254 002 OF 002


evidence may be too late in coming.

Comment
--------

5. (SBU) While the submission of new witness testimony has
thus far been considered to be incompatible with Cambodian
Supreme Court procedures, if the Cambodians continue to feel
enough pressure on the issue and decide to pursue a
resolution, the FBI offer could be seized as a pretext to do
so. In the meantime, post continues to urge the RGC that it
would be better to leave the murder case open and to continue
investigation than to risk the continued conviction of
innocent people. If nothing else, the presentation of the
HRR to the RGC provided us another opportunity to raise the
case with government officials. Sok Sam Oeun and Born
Samnang have been behind bars since 2004. Their Supreme
Court hearing date has not yet been set. If the Supreme
Court upholds the Phnom Penh Court and Appeals Court
decisions that the two men are guilty, the two still may be
granted a Royal pardon -- something that human rights NGOs
have been advocating since early on in the court process.

6. (SBU) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) press release
is disappointing, but highlights again how focused the
government is on the upcoming election. We will write to the
MFA clarifying some of the inaccuracies contained in the
press release and will pursue our plans to engage both the
MFA and the RGC's Human Rights bodies in a constructive
dialogue, using the HRR as a starting point.
MUSSOMELI

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