The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) released a statement Tuesday in which Hor Sothoun, the eldest son of Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, defended himself against complaints of nepotism, abuse of power and mishandling of overtime bonuses in his position as permanent secretary-general in his father’s ministry.
The statement, printed on ACU letterhead, does not include the specific complaints against Mr. Sothoun or clarify whether or not an investigation into the senior Foreign Affairs Ministry secretary is underway. Instead, it provides a lengthy summary of Mr. Sothoun’s defense.
“Domestic and foreign appointments and promotions in rank have been implemented with principle and following procedure with fairness and transparency based on a number of conditions such as qualification, knowledge, professionalism, foreign language proficiency, seniority, responsibility and punctuality,” Mr. Sothoun said, according to the ACU statement.
Mr. Namhong, who served as foreign affairs minister from 1990 to 1993 and resumed the post in 1998, has promoted three of his sons to senior positions within the ministry.
Hor Nambora recently returned to the country after serving as Cambodia’s ambassador to the U.K. and permanent representative of Cambodia to the African Union. He is now a deputy secretary-general at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Hor Monirath, another of Mr. Namhong’s sons, is Cambodia’s ambassador to Japan.
Mr. Sothoun said in the ACU statement that despite the allegations against him, he has, in fact, instituted safeguards within the Foreign Affairs Ministry to ensure that promotions are based on merit and that staff members are regularly evaluated for their performance.
Responding to unspecified allegations of mishandling bonuses, Mr. Sothoun spells out the exact amount of allowances given to staff for food and gasoline depending on their duties.
Mr. Sothoun could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Chhay Savuth, vice chairman of the ACU, said that he had not seen the statement regarding Mr. Sothoun and referred questions to ACU chairman Om Yentieng.
“The two cases were basically carried out by His Excellency Chairman [Mr. Yentieng],” Mr. Savuth said.
Mr. Yentieng also could not be reached for comment.
In a separate statement posted on the ACU’s website Tuesday, a senior Koh Kong provincial official was cleared of allegations of corrupt relations with sand-dredging firms and selling state land.
Pech Siyun, provincial director of the department of mines and energy, along with other officials in his office, was accused of selling multiple plots of land belonging to the department, skimming salaries of his staff and taking bribes from sand-dredging companies in the province. The accusations were in a complaint filed with the ACU in April 2013 by local residents and department staff.
“Pech Siyun and a number of civil servants at the Koh Kong provincial department of industry, mines and energy, clarified that [they] did not collude together to embezzle money from the sale of [land belonging to] the provincial department,” says the statement, signed by Mr. Yentieng.
“The fact is that the land…was swapped in exchange for new buildings with approval from all levels of superiors,” the statement continues.
The statement also says that Mr. Siyun clarified that his department collected public service fees from sand-dredging companies operating in the province, but was not involved in any illegal transactions.
Contacted Tuesday, Mr. Siyun confirmed that he had provided testimony to the ACU last year regarding the allegations against him, adding that any money that his staff collects from sand-dredging companies goes directly into state coffers.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International in Cambodia, said that he was confused by the manner in which the ACU seemed to be carrying out its mandate to root out corruption in the country.
“I don’t know exactly what legal procedure and practice the ACU has used in carrying out their work, but at first glance, it seems that the ACU is protecting the accused officials,” Mr. Kol said, noting that the publication of personal statements on official ACU letterhead was odd.
“The ACU should have written a letter describing that they have conducted an investigation into the allegations and have found this or that,” Mr. Kol said. “Then they should make a conclusion based on those findings.”
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