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Cablegate: Ambassador's Farewell Call On Dpm Sar Kheng:

VZCZCXRO7504
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0702/01 2380157
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 250157Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000702

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MLS, G/TIP, AND DRL
USAID FOR ASIA BUREAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KWMN KJUS CB
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S FAREWELL CALL ON DPM SAR KHENG:
PEDOPHILE RELEASE UPDATE, JOURNALIST'S KILLING, GUN
SHOOTING IMPUNITY

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 680
B. PHNOM PENH 628
C. PHNOM PENH 576

1. (SBU) Summary: During the Ambassador's farewell call,
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng
expressed his appreciation efforts to expand and strengthen
cooperation, and Sar Kheng's desire to maintain cooperation
with the U.S. Mission. Sar Kheng stated that he still has
serious concerns about trafficking-in-persons, such as the
recent release of a Russian pedophile by the Sihanoukville
Court (Ref B). Sar Kheng said that the officials involved
with the case had damaged the RGC's efforts to combat TIP,
and said he had ordered an investigation of the release of
the pedophile who is still in the country, and whose case has
been appealed by the Appeals Court prosecutor. The DPM
thanked the U.S. for the FBI's offer of assistance to
investigate the July killing of opposition newspaper
journalist Khem Sambo (Ref C) and said he will request that
the Cambodian National Police submit to the FBI specific
investigation needs. Sar Kheng appeared surprised when the
Ambassador informed him that a pistol bullet penetrated one
of the CMR's bathroom windows over the weekend (Ref A). Sar
Kheng bemoaned the lack of implementation of the country's
gun laws, and said he would look into Embassy reports of a
problematic bar located next to one of the Embassy residences
where apparently well-connected, young patrons shoot off guns
outside without reprimand. End summary.

Sar Kheng Concerned About Belov Release
---------------------------------------

2. (SBU) While noting overall achievements on TIP issues
through cooperative U.S.-Cambodia relations over the last few
years, DPM Sar Kheng lamented the recent release of Russian
pedophile Nikita Belov stating that officials dealing with
the case had damaged the RGC's efforts to combat TIP. Sar
Kheng said that he had instructed Ministry of Justice
Undersecretary of State Ith Rady to come up with a report
about why Belov was released. The DPM stated that despite
this setback the RGC remains unwavering in its anti-TIP
commitment and concurred with the Ambassador's statement that
it is critical for the RGC to stay vigilant to cases when
court and police officials do not act according to the
government's high-level commitment.

Belov Release Update from MOJ
-----------------------------

3. (SBU) During a separate meeting, Ith Rady told Poloff
that he reviewed the Sihanoukville Court's Nikita Belov case
file and determined that the judge released Belov because of
a misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the law.
Specifically, Belov was charged with Article 43 of the new
anti-TIP law "indecent acts against a minor," defined as
"touching or exposing a genital or other sexual part of
another person, or of having another person touch the actor's
or a third person's genital or other sexual part...." As at
least one of Belov's underage victims testified to performing
oral sex on Belov, Article 42 "Sexual Acts with a Minor" is
believed to be the more suitable charge. However, "sexual
acts" is not defined in detail in the new anti-TIP law. Ith
Rady stated that oral sex is "not a part of Khmer culture"
and that he has consulted with several MOJ colleagues, "60 to
70 percent" of whom thought that oral sex is an indecent act,
not a sexual act. He reported his assessment that the
Sihanoukville judge misunderstood the law in relation to the
act that Belov committed. Ith Rady submitted to the Minister
of Justice a request that the Minister issue an official
letter to court and judicial officials explaining the
articles.

Belov Still in Cambodia; Case Appealed
--------------------------------------

4. (SBU) In the Ambassador's separate farewell meeting with
Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana, the Minister stated
that Belov has not left Cambodia, a statement that was
confirmed by TIP investigation NGO APLE which has been
working on the case. National Task Force Chair You Ay was
instrumental in ensuring that a letter went out to all
immigration officers at Cambodia points of entry notifying
all that Belov was still involved with legal proceedings and
should not be allowed to leave the country. You Ay also
pushed the Appeals Court general prosecutor to appeal the
Sihanoukville decision. The Minister of Justice told the
Ambassador that the timing of the appeals trial is "up to the

PHNOM PENH 00000702 002 OF 002


Appeals Court."

Slain Journalist FBI Investigation Offer Still on the Table
--------------------------------------------- --------------

5. (SBU) DPM Sar Kheng thanked the U.S. for support of FBI
involvement in the investigation of a July 10 killing of an
opposition newspaper journalist. The Ambassador stated that
the FBI has been waiting for several weeks for a response
from the police about their specific investigation needs.
Sar Kheng said he would request that the police respond.

DPM "Shocked" By Shooting Reports
---------------------------------

6. (SBU) Despite his police leadership role as the Minister
of Interior, Sar Kheng had apparently not heard that a pistol
bullet was shot through a bathroom window at the CMR over the
weekend, and said he was "shocked" by the news. He also
stated that he would look into a problematic bar located next
to one of the Embassy residences where apparently
well-connected, young patrons shoot off guns outside without
reprimand. He agreed with the Ambassador's assessment that a
great deal of random shooting of guns by off-duty military
members or by children of the wealthy and influential takes
place, flouting Cambodia's laws. The DPM stated that
Cambodia has a gun law and related subdecrees but that
implementation of these has not been realized; some
Cambodians carry guns without being entitled to do so.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) DPM Sar Kheng's willingness to work cooperatively
with the U.S. Mission over the past few years has paid
dividends for the RGC in terms of its gaining traction on the
high-level government commitment to combat TIP, and he
reiterated his commitment to continue working with the U.S.
to eliminate TIP in Cambodia. The Belov case and other cases
at the courts will stand as tests to this commitment. While
we commend Sar Kheng for the RGC's acting to review the Belov
case, we have not yet seen a positive final outcome on the
issue.
MUSSOMELI

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