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Cablegate: Corruption in Cambodia's Anti-Tip Department: Three

VZCZCXRO1158
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHPF #1646 2550959
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 120959Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7293
INFO RUEHZS/ASEAN COLLECTIVE
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 001646

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

FOR G/TIP, EAP/MLS and EAP/RSP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL KWMN KJUS CB
SUBJECT: CORRUPTION IN CAMBODIA'S ANTI-TIP DEPARTMENT: THREE
OFFICERS CONVICTED

REF: PHNOM PENH 1445

1. (U) Summary: On August 24, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court
convicted and sentenced three police officers to five and seven
years imprisonment for taking bribes, and ordering them to pay
compensation of USD 9,000 to the plaintiffs - brothel owners who
bribed the police to release them following their arrest.
Anti-Trafficking Department Chief Ung Sokunthea was not implicated
in the case and National Police Commissioner General Hok Lundy came
to her defense. However, DPM Sar Kheng issued a reprimand to her.
End Summary.

Anti-TIP Officers Convicted
---------------------------

2. (U) In an August 24 verdict, Judge Ke Sakhorn of the Phnom Penh
Municipal Court convicted and sentenced Touch Ngim to five years and
Thong Kim Heng and Rin Savoeun to seven years in prison for taking
bribes. The verdict is based on an August 8 hearing (see reftel)
related to alleged TIP-related corruption. Although Cambodian law
stipulates that the one who bribes, and one who receives the bribe
are equally guilty and punishable by law, the judge ordered those
convicted to pay USD 9,000 compensation to the plaintiffs, brothel
owners who were arrested and who bribed the three suspects to be
released from police custody.

3. (U) The judge did not implcate Anti-TIP Department head Ung
Sokunthea in the case. He asserted that three suspects committed
the wrongdoing without her knowledge, and although she received part
of the money, she was not aware that the money was obtained
dishonestly.

4. (U) Hok Lundy, Commissioner General of the National Police,
welcomed the convictions and came to Ung Sokunthea's defense during
comments he made to the press. He claimed that Sokunthea did not
know the origin of the money and that she had used it for legitimate
purposes. Khieu Sopheak, spokesperson for the MOI, downplayed the
impact this case may have on the reputation of the national police
and said that the conviction is proof of the Cambodian government's
willingness to implement the law.

5. (U) Thong Kim Heng still maintains his position as an Office
Director in the anti-TIP Department and has yet to be arrested. Rin
Savoeun remains at large and his whereabouts are unknown. Judge Ke
Sakhorn and MOI spokesperson Kheiu Sopheak commented that the two
officers will have to be formally removed from their positions
before they are arrested and made to serve their jail terms. Touch
Ngim, who was arrested in December 2005, remains in prison to serve
out his sentence.

Ung Sokunthea Receives Reprimand
--------------------------------

6. (SBU) Although Ung Sokunthea escaped any judicial action
related to this case, DPM and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng issued
a letter on August 22, 2006 reprimanding Ung Sokunthea for
unprofessional misconduct, and ordered that she rectify her mistake.
The letter reportedly noted that she will face future legal action
if such mistakes continue to occur.

7. (SBU) Comment: This verdict is another reminder of the
weaknesses in the judiciary and uneven treatment of those involved.
In this case, Ung Sokunthea received a slap on the wrist for taking
part in accepting bribes - she did not ask where the $3,000 came
from and was excused for misconduct because she allegedly used the
money for the benefit of the MOI. While Touch Ngim remains in jail,
one of his convicted associates is still working at the MOI; police
efforts to capture the third officer have been unsuccessful. The
brothel owners winning their case and escaping any legal action for
bribing the police is a further miscarriage of justice. It remains
unclear why they were arrested in the first place - there may have
been credible TIP-related allegations or it could have been a simple
act of extortion on the part of the police - a not uncommon
practice. In the RGC's quest to mete out punishment to those
officers involved, no one reviewed the merits of the original
arrests.

MUSSOMELI

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