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Cablegate: Reaction to Finnish Visa for Convicted Cambodian Cop

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OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #2210/01 3550120
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 210120Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7732
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0017

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 002210

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STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KJUS PREF CB
SUBJECT: REACTION TO FINNISH VISA FOR CONVICTED CAMBODIAN COP


1. (SBU) Summary. While the Cambodian government has reacted
angrily to the Finnish government's decision to offer a visa to
convicted senior police official Heng Pov, Cambodian human rights
NGOs and the political opposition are pleased with the decision.
Following the announcement on December 6, Cambodian Foreign Minister
Hor Namhong held a press conference that was played repeatedly on
government-controlled media in which the MFA sharply criticized the
GOF decision. Some NGOs suggest that Heng Pov could face legal
problems in Finland, where Cambodian citizens may take the former
RGC police official to court. End Summary.

Cambodian MFA: GOF Decision "Very Regrettable"
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) Following the GOF's confirmation of the December 6
announcement in Malaysia that Finland would grant Heng Pov a visa,
the Cambodian government criticized Finland's government of giving
asylum to a Cambodian criminal, and sardonically urged Finland to
accept other criminals interned in Cambodia's prison system. In a
letter by Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign
Affairs and International Cooperation, to his counterpart in
Finland, Hor Namhong expressed anger and obvious frustration that
Finland's government had decided to issue a visa for convicted
criminal Heng Pov. "I would recall that this is the second time a
convicted criminal from Cambodia has been offered shelter in your
country," Hor Namhong said in the letter dated on December 7. "Sok
Yoeun, who was convicted for a rocket attack and attempting to
assassinate Prime Miniter Hun Sen in 1998 was also given sanctuary
by your country on a similar pretext".

3. (U) "It is very regrettable indeed that criminals who
fabricated claims against the Royal Government of Cambodia to
masquerade their actual crimes have gained protection from Finland,"
Hor Namhong said. In the letter, Hor Namhong said there are many
convicted criminals in Cambodia; and suggested if Finland wishes to
provide care for them, Cambodia will be very pleased to send them to
Finland. On behalf of the RGC, Hor Namhong urged the Government of
Finland to reconsider its decision.

4. (U) Ex-Municipal police chief Heng Pov, who is being detained
on immigration charges by Malaysian police, fled from Cambodia in
late July -- shortly before Cambodian authorities issued an arrest
warrant. A Cambodian court later convicted Heng Pov in absentia to
18 years imprisonment on several counts, including the murder of
Judge Sok Sethemony in Phnom Penh. In Singapore where Heng Pov
first arrived, Heng Pov rebuffed the government's accusations,
countering that senior RGC officials were behind such unsolved
political crimes as the murder of union leader Chea Vichea in 2004,
the 1997 grenade attack that killed 16 protesters outside the
National Assembly, and the murder of famous actress Pisith Pilika.
Singapore later expelled Heng Pov to Malaysia, the point of entry
for his arrival in Singapore. Malaysian immigration authorities
arrested Heng Pov on October 3, and his lawyers appealed to
Malaysian authorities to resist RGC calls for his deportation to
Cambodia.

5. (SBU) With the GOF visa offer, the Cambodian press has given
extensive coverage to the Heng Pov case once again. Hor Namhong
gave a press conference on December 7, which was broadcast on both
state and privately-owned television and radio that same evening.
Numerous stories appeared on the front pages of the local print
media on December 8. Press reports also quoted Finland's Ambassador
to Malaysia as saying that the GOF arrived at the decision as a
result of human rights concerns raised by Heng Pov's lawyers as well
as unnamed NGOs. The latter reference ensured that Cambodian NGOs
contacted by the press for reaction to the GOF decision were
circumspect in their public remarks for fear of being too closely
identified as supporting Heng Pov's case.

NGO Reaction to Finnish Offer
-----------------------------

6. (SBU) Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) Director Kem
Sokha characterized Finland's offer of an entry visa to Heng Pov as
a humanitarian gesture. Kem Sokha told us that he believes Finland
offered the visa to Heng Pov after careful consideration of the
case. He added that Finland has provided asylum to other
Cambodians, e.g., SRP official Sok Yoeun, as well as family members
of slain union leaders Chea Vichea and Ros Sovannareth. Kek
Galabru, LICADHO Director, said that many Cambodians in Canada,
Australia, the United States and Finland do not want Heng Pov to be
deported to Cambodia because of the lack of an independent judiciary
and prospects for a fair trial. Many of those individuals have
lobbied other countries, including Finland, for asylum for Heng Pov,
she said.

7. (SBU) Thun Saray, Director of ADHOC, offered no insight into
Finland's decision. He said that Heng Pov's issue is complicated
because Heng Pov was also involved in crimes in Cambodia and is not

PHNOM PENH 00002210 002 OF 002


an innocent man. However, Cambodia's judiciary is neither neutral
nor fair for cases like Heng Pov's, the human rights leader added.
Heng Pov would never have a chance to disclose information regarding
his crimes and those involving other senior RGC officials if he were
sent back to Cambodia, said Thun Saray. Nay Dina, Executive
Director of Khmer Institute for Democracy (KID), added that the
truth about many unsolved crimes in Cambodia may come to light once
Heng Pov is safely relocated to Finland or another third country.

8. (SBU) When contacted by the press, Sam Rainsy, leader of
Cambodia's main opposition party, claimed surprise over the offer
of asylum. Since Heng Pov's flight from Cambodia, Sam Rainsy has
instructed his colleagues to distance themselves from the issue,
comparing the issue to a "conflict among rascals." Privately,
however, Rainsy has indicated a strong desire to see Heng Pov
receive asylum from a third country and not face return to Cambodia,
where the opposition leader has opined that Pov would likely be
killed.

9. (SBU) Comment. Cambodia's public believes that Heng Pov is
culpable for many crimes, but also has knowledge regarding other
crimes his ranking supervisors ordered or covered up. NGOs have
mixed feelings about Heng Pov, but all noted respect for Finland's
decision. However, it is not clear Heng Pov was involved in the
crimes for which he has been charged and convicted in absentia. No
one contacted believes Heng Pov's trial was fair and impartial, nor
do they have confidence the ex-police official will be able to tell
his full story if returned to Cambodia. Heng Pov has claimed that
he has proof of his allegations, but to date has offered nothing
specific. Some sources speculated that Heng Pov could face charges
in Finland brought by other Cambodians, as the former MOI official
may have been involved in the cases that led to their decision to
seek asylum abroad. While the process for removing Heng Pov from
Malaysia to Singapore and then possibly on to Finland remains
unclear, Heng Pov is likely to prefer risking legal action against
him in Finland to going to jail in Cambodia. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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